It’s hard to really know someone if they’re wearing shades. You
miss the flashes of guilt, the incriminating look away when the bullshit
comes, the clear stare of integrity or honesty, the tell-tale signs of
an active social life. The only thing you’ve got to go on when someone’s
hiding their eyes is your instinct.
My instinct is telling me that Stephen Miron’s a pretty decent, straight
bloke. Which is just as well, because my eyes are telling me he’s a bit
of a flash git. He’s all shades-and-suntan, pink polo-shirt, BMW and
platinum Amex, but it’s a nice day and I’m feeling generous.
With the labels comes the smooth charm. Miron is a bit of a social
oiler, a ’bon viveur and a great host’ according to CIA’s managing
director, Alan Brydon. He works hard at relationships but without the
obvious cynical edge you meet in ’everybody’s friend’ salesmen. Miron is
more of a natural than that. As he keeps telling me, ’what you see is
what you get’, with or without shades.
Relationships will be important in his new job. Miron has just been
appointed commercial director of the Independent, and he’s about to need
all the friends he can get.
The fact that someone, anyone, is joining the Independent right now is a
case for raised eyebrows. That that someone should be jumping from the
highly successful Mail On Sunday (where Miron is ad manager) seems more
like a case for sending in the men in white coats.
The Indie’s circulation fell 12 per cent in the last six months, the
editor’s chair hasn’t accommodated a bum long enough to get warm and the
newspaper has lost most of what little credibility it had left among the
advertising community. Then it was sold.
As a white knight, Independent Publishing’s Tony O’Reilly has a lot
going for him - a formidable track record as a successful entrepreneur
and a personal fortune of pounds 1.1 billion for starters.
And Miron says he likes a challenge. More importantly, he likes the idea
of a big job, the chance to help shape something, build a strong
newspaper product which has respect in the marketplace.
Sure, it’ll be a struggle, but selling the Mail on Sunday to media
buyers must be a bit like being Pamela Anderson’s Wonderbra - you’re
never quite sure how necessary you really are. At least at the Indie
they’re desperate for a strong commercial edge.
Miron is sure to shake up the ad team on the paper (thank God, say
agencies) and as one friend points out, ’Steve has got a side to him
which means he’s happy taking difficult decisions, even if he does do it
with a sense of humour.’ In the words of his buddy, Mike Anderson, New
PHD’s marketing director, Miron is ’a sparkly, fun personality, a great
businessman and an awesome find for the Independent’.
Mind you, Miron says he’ll be sad to leave Associated Newspapers after
ten years with the group. Then again, after ten years he’s not top dog,
his boss Simon Barnes doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere and when
you’re a tender 33, ambitious and sharp and someone offers you a big
man’s job without having to serve your time as a sales director, what
can you do?
’Either you’re happy being a number two or you want your own train
I always knew I wanted my own train set,’ Miron says.
At the Indie he will be responsible for all the revenues. His targets
are ’very realistic, definitely achievable, but will mean a huge amount
of work. It’s not just a sprint, it’s a marathon at least; we’re in it
for the long term.’ And while others may see the job as something of a
poisoned chalice, for Miron the challenge is an attraction and the
ambition for revival a realistic one. ’I think the Independent is a
fantastic brand, it’s just that more people need to know about it. It
still has its own identity and there’s a definite niche in the market
Miron is also encouraged by the appointment of Simon Kelner as
He worked with Kelner when he edited the Mail on Sunday’s Night and Day
supplement. ’If they’re investing in someone like him it gives me great
confidence that this is going to work.’
Kelner, for whom Miron is ’a hunk of hebrew’, returns the
’Simon is all personality and great at cultivating relationships with
editorial. He understands that commercial and editorial need to have the
same objectives and that when they do, it creates a very powerful
For a newspaper lacking in colour and personality - at least with the
advertising community if not with its die-hard readers - Miron can’t
fail to make a difference. Personality, though, won’t be enough if the
circulation remains in freefall and I bet there’s a hint of apprehension
lurking behind Miron’s shades.
THE MIRON FILE
1985: TV Times, sales assistant
1988: Mail On Sunday, sales executive
1991: Mail on Sunday, sales manager
1993: Mail on Sunday, advertising manager
1998: Independent, commercial director