HEADLINER: Eurosport’s ambitious sales chief justifies his resignation - Tom Toumazis’s TV career has taken an unexpected turn Claire Beale reports.

It’s 24 degrees outside and Tom Toumazis is off to play golf. Teeing off in the warm sunshine on a Thursday afternoon is something he will be able to do a little more of following his surprise departure from Eurosport last week.

It’s 24 degrees outside and Tom Toumazis is off to play golf.

Teeing off in the warm sunshine on a Thursday afternoon is something he

will be able to do a little more of following his surprise departure

from Eurosport last week.



But when Toumazis enthuses about his decision to resign as head of UK

sales, he’s doing what Tom Toumazis does best: selling a positive

line.



Tom Toumazis is a salesman. Tom Toumazis is to television what the

second-hand car dealer is to the Ford Capri. He’s about as subtle as a

poke in the eye, a master of every cliche from the cheesy salesman’s

handbook, and charmingly shameless in his pursuit of the close. You know

when you’ve been Toumazied, and more often than not he gets away with

it.



His approach has been honed by ten years in the ITV sales scrum, and,

most recently, on the international TV scene, where he’s had to temper

the brutish sales stance ITV’s monopolistic position had fostered in its

progeny.



Now time, frustration and a fundamental disagreement over Eurosport’s

sales policy have combined to take his career in a new direction

(Campaign, last week). ’I’m really proud of what we’ve done at

Eurosport, we shook the pan-European TV sales market up, but I feel

ready for a new challenge,’ Toumazis says.



Parting company with the pan-European sports channel is, he insists,

’ambitious, brave and risky’, but puts him in pole position to take

advantage of emerging opportunities in the media and entertainment

marketplace.



Friends muse that the man’s interest in movies could entice him into the

world of film distribution and marketing, but Toumazis himself will not

be drawn publicly on his career strategy beyond the vaguest of musings.

’I think the media market is going to change so much and I want to be

free to look around carefully and explore the best route for me to

take,’ he comments.



One thing he admits, though, is that for all his skills in the airtime

sales arena, sales are no longer where he wants to be: ’I’ve enjoyed

what I’ve done so far, but I feel as though I’ve gone as far as I can.

It’s time for me to move on.’



So the 35-year-old Greek Cypriot has bundled up his bag of tricks, which

includes enthusiasm, drive, determination and a quite a dollop of fierce

ambition. ’I’ve got a real willingness to keep on succeeding. My

ambition is not about making money, it’s about succeeding.’ His honesty

about his ambition sits uncomfortably with some of the bullshit he so

readily peddles.



Beneath the bullshit, however, lies a real drive and energy. He was so

keen to get into the ad business that he offered to work for free for

three months for Royds Advertising to get a foot in the door.



A fanatical perfectionist, Toumazis soon found a niche for himself in

airtime sales, gaining a reputation as a fearless negotiator - ’the

fastest fingers in the west’ is how one former colleague describes his

calculator skills.



David Connolly, the joint media director of Leo Burnett, remembers

Toumazis’s enormous capacity for hard work when they were colleagues at

STV. ’Tom would be training people at seven o’clock in the morning and

again at seven o’clock in the evening,’ he says. ’I didn’t really

appreciate it at the time, but he worked phenomen-ally hard to make sure

everyone was up to speed and I learned a hell of a lot.’



Andrew McLean, the director of advertising at Buena Vista, ascribes much

of Eurosport’s commercial success in recent years to Toumazis’s

enthusiasm: ’He really took the time to get to know our business, and

he’s a nice guy too.’



But others point to an aggressive streak in the Toumazis make-up, which

did not always work in his favour in the old ITV days. ’Tom was often

cast as the nasty one in the sales team, the bastard negotiator,’ one

buyer says. ’And the problem was that when he won, he would rub the

other person’s nose in it.’



’A lot of people were very happy when Tom left ITV,’ another media

director recalls. ’He was a brilliant negotiator, but loved to get one

over on you. He never really took a long-term picture when it came to

building relationships.’



Toumazis believes that his aggression has been tempered in recent years

’because the jobs I took on didn’t need that sort of attribute’. But he

likes to think people still see him as tough when the situation requires

it.



How far pride is forcing a brave face at what could be a nail-biting

time - responsibilities include three children - is hard to

determine.



But, as Toumazis puts it: ’I might not go to bed at night thinking that

everything is fantastic because anything new is scary. But it’s also

exciting and if you believe in yourself, you’ll succeed.’



The Toumazis File



1983 Royds Advertising, media trainee



1983 LWT, sales assistant



1984 STV, sales assistant



1992 TVMM, head of sales



1994 Merlin, deputy managing director



1994 Eurosport ad sales, managing director.



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