Simon Lynds is equipped for a long hard struggle at Katz. Claire Beale
Simon Lynds feels like a Dutch boy - ‘I’m the person who’s been brought
in to put his finger in the dyke,’ he says of his new role at Katz
As chief executive of the Katz International media sales house, Lynds is
trying to stem the flow of business that has gushed out of the company
lately, including some big radio sales contracts. But it looks as though
he’s slowly beginning to turn the tide. Last week Katz won the contract
to handle sales for the new religious cable channel, ARK2, in a pitch
against Carlton Cable and Satellite Sales (Campaign, 28 June).
Still, finger aside, Lynds’s professional balls are on the line. In
April he made ‘the biggest decision of my life’ when he jacked in his
own company to go to Katz, which, as any two-bit media man will tell
you, was in grave danger of becoming a one-bit company. Its radio arm,
formerly known as IRS, was gasping its final breath and the company’s
cable sales division was struggling to stay on its knees.
Katz has resolutely failed to live up to its potential. What it needed
more than anything else was a hardened professional to put his face
between the shit and the fan, absorb the knocks and start knocking back.
But is this Simon Lynds?
‘I instinctively knew that this was a job I’d always wanted,’ he
insists. And don’t forget that Katz is a multi-million pound publicly
quoted US company with major global ambitions and major international
opportunities for Mr Right.
Thick skin, an ability to structure and motivate a good sales team and a
firm understanding of the commercial realities of today’s and tomorrow’s
media business are the attributes which Lynds believes make him Mr
Then there’s his mind, which, he claims, is ‘free from the traditional
media shackles, able to embrace new areas, new developments’. No,
there’s nothing shy and retiring about Lynds, but it’s self-confidence
rather than arrogance, he says. In fact, for all his rough edges, Lynds
can be disarmingly honest, though he insists he’s a rather private man.
One person in this business who knows Lynds better than any is Mark
Wood, who launched Wood Lynds with him back in 1991. Wood says there are
two things which set Lynds apart: ‘He’s got the negotiating skills of
Donald Trump and the bird-pulling powers of George Best. The prettiest
women I’ve ever met are the one’s he’s rejected.’
It’s all down to that cute smile and doe eyes, apparently. And Wood
insists that there’s a soft side to Lynds that the rest of us might
miss: ‘The most important thing in his life is his mum, and he does his
bit for charity.’
Mind you, he is a major league competitive bastard. With Katz a very
minor player in a radio sales market dominated by Media Sales and
Marketing, you might ask whether Lynds is flogging a dead pitch. ‘It’s
going to be enormously difficult to sustain our radio interests,’ is the
honest response before the typical Lynds punch: ‘But I’m a fighter and I
will keep on fighting. We’re not going to roll over, we will not give
in.’ No, he does not like losing, and God is he depressed about Euro 96.
As for Katz’s cable sales interests, with big boys like Carlton and
Laser prettily flexing their muscles in front of the cable operators,
competition is hot, hot, hot. What chance little old Katz?
Lynds admits that the competition is formidable, ‘but I wonder
conceptually whether these new sales operations have the ability to sell
channels with small, niche audiences. The skills and training required
for this sort of sell are very different from the way ITV salesmen
Lynds’s vision is to create a true media sales house - selling radio,
TV, multimedia, even press, and outdoor, and representing international
as well as domestic media owners. ‘We’re wonderfully positioned as a
sales operation to take advantage of what’s poised to happen in the
media business with the new cross-media ownership rules,’ he argues.
‘There are companies out there who see the benefits of similar concepts
coming together under a single sales roof, and we’re already
experimenting with people being able to sell both cable and radio.’
Lynds is careful to ensure that this won’t mean being the proverbial
Jack-of-all-trades. He’s got big plans, both for Katz and for himself
within the Katz organisation. Right now he might seem like a major media
masochist, but he’s determined to prove his doubters wrong. Once he’s
got his finger out of that dyke.
The Lynds file
1979 Ogilvy and Mather, media executive
1980 McCann-Erickson, media executive
1983 Geers Gross, deputy media director
1987 Central Television, sales controller
1989 BSB/Sky, sales controller
1991 Wood (Scott) Lynds, partner
1996 Katz International, chief executive