MEDIA: HEADLINER - Troubleshooter moves once again as IPC lures him home. New York cannot stop Mike Soutar from taking on a new mission

To many observers, Mike Soutar seems to be more than a little flighty. Promiscuous, even. None of his past few jobs have endured for much more than a year and it seems like only yesterday that he packed his pigskin Vuittons (probably) for New York. In fact, he informs me, it is a year to the day - ’I like to do things neatly.’

To many observers, Mike Soutar seems to be more than a little

flighty. Promiscuous, even. None of his past few jobs have endured for

much more than a year and it seems like only yesterday that he packed

his pigskin Vuittons (probably) for New York. In fact, he informs me, it

is a year to the day - ’I like to do things neatly.’



Now he sits at his 6th Avenue desk, rubber-stamping his last two issues

of Maxim US (of which he has been the editor-in-chief for the past year)

and preparing to return to the UK as the managing director of IPC’s

Music & Sport division.



As he eagerly rattles off a list of his achievements in that scant 12

months, it becomes clear that he has done in that time what it would

take more pedestrian editors four times that to achieve. The list is

long but it includes doubling circulation to two million, making it the

fastest-growing magazine in the US ABCs’ history and generating huge

amounts of comment in the US press and on TV.



Soutar makes headlines. He’s a journalist’s dream: eminently quotable

and stupidly photogenic. But he’s also a dream journalist. Much has been

documented about his success as editor of FHM (turning a 40,000-selling

MOR title into a 500,000-selling symbol for a new genre), although, by

his own admission, he has never quite managed to equal that.



Soutar won’t take sole responsibility for his recent spate of job

hopping, however. He was happy as managing director of the dance music

station Kiss (for which he left FHM), he says, until the grown-ups

started ’taking things in a different direction’ - although many people

thought it might have more to do with the fact that he didn’t enjoy

having to be a grown-up himself and, to boot, was no good at it.



His next job - creative director of Emap Radio - raised a few eyebrows

and he admits that it was a ’made-up job’, giving him time to develop

the plan to edit the Daily Star under its new owner, Ginger Media

Group.



It famously fell through at the 11th hour due to some nervous venture

capitalists - ’the most disappointing thing that has ever happened to

me’.



So Felix Dennis beckoned, and offered Soutar a bite of the Big Apple,

which tasted delicious until IPC’s chief executive, Sly Bailey, called

him and he ’bit her hand off’. The feeling’s mutual, she says: ’Mike is

a towering creative talent and a tremendous businessman. I went after

him and got him.’



Although he will be responsible for 18-odd products, Loaded will be

Soutar’s first priority; the magazine having become rather sickly of

late, with no editor and growing public weariness with its overgrown

schoolboy image.



Soutar’s rubbing his hands and reckons IPC needs to rethink its

attitude: ’You can be your own worst enemy. When I see IPC using the

word ’lad’, I think, oooh, you’re not really helping yourself. Is that

an aspiration for anyone?’



Soutar is looking forward once again to surrounding himself with equally

creative people and gorging on ideas. Mark Ellen, now the

editor-in-chief of Emap Invent, formerly Soutar’s editor-in-chief on

FHM, attests: ’On FHM, there was a combination of people that, he firmly

believed, collectively embodied the spirit of FHM, its sense of humour

and its worldview. Once a month we’d assemble to write the coverlines

and by the end would be literally crying with laughter. I was there for

such historic benchmarks in bad taste as: ’Cheap fuel! Free teeth!

Unlimited Sherry! - Why old people should stop bloody moaning!’’



Oh yes, Soutar is an ideas man alright. He is also one of the most

absurdly desirable and magnetic characters a person is likely to meet.

The combination of gleeful naivety and a dangerous glint in the eye

stops traffic and, according to Ellen, elicits all sorts of generosity.

’Every time he wandered down Floral Street, tailors would start chucking

free suits at him.’



But with the creativity, the charm and the looks comes a degree of chaos

and a whole bunch of paradoxes, according to a former boss. ’He’s really

creative, but commercially hopeless. He loves new ideas, but can’t make

tough decisions.’



Soutar evokes strong opinions in others. But, as he says when talking

about the small(-ish) amount of dissension surrounding Maxim’s US

adventure: ’There’s no such thing as bad publicity.’



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