RALPH BERNARD 44 chief executive GWR
Ralph Bernard began his career as a news agency journalist. A stint in
hospital radio opened the door to Peterborough’s Hereward Radio in 1980,
first as head of news and later as programme controller. He then joined
Wiltshire Radio in Swindon as managing director, merging it with Bristol
Radio West - the foundation of today’s GWR empire.
It seems a long time since Bernard was a passionate union man who
’caused terrible problems for management’, according to one
acquaintance. Poacher has turned gamekeeper and he is widely admired for
transforming a provincial radio station into the second largest radio
group in the UK, holding more than 30 licences.
Now a public company, GWR has a market capitalisation of around pounds
175 million. The passion for trade unionism has been turned into a
passion for radio deregulation and aggressive acquisition, most recently
with the pounds 90 million takeover of Classic FM in January 1997.
Bernard hopes to improve margins which have been trimmed because of
Classic’s many overseas ventures. A review of this part of the business
will attempt to ’see what the strengths are and play to them,’ although
Classic’s UK operations will not see ’massive changes’.
Signs of lateral thinking in the Classic FM marketing department were
evident in December with the announcement of a link-up with
Mercedes-Benz, which has a valuable customer database and will work
closely with the station.
The City, however, remains somewhat sceptical about the logic of holding
Classic FM under the same corporate roof as GWR’s other stations.
Observers have commented that there are no obvious synergies, since
Classic FM has such a specific and upmarket audience.
But GWR is too busy moving up in the world to worry about this - it has
just moved its headquarters from Camden to Oxford Street. Its first
occupants are the company’s new national sales team, called Opus, which
came about because of Capital’s decision to pull the plug on MSM.
Another key development, albeit non-radio, is the formation of a digital
division, whose aim is to capture a slice of the emerging digital TV
Despite his company’s relatively high stock market rating, not everyone
is convinced Bernard’s enthusiasm for buying radio stations is matched
by an ability to run them. ’They’ve stayed provincial in outlook,’ says
one observer, who finds Emap a much slicker operation.
RICHARD HUNTINGFORD 41 chief executive Chrysalis Radio
At 18, Huntingford opted out of college and, with pounds 50 in his
pocket, packed his bags for Australia. The next year was perhaps a sign
of things to come. He got a job at McDonald’s, worked his way up from
toilet to oven cleaner - and claims he can still stomach a Big Mac.
His career started after he acquired a professional accountancy
qualification and spent the following decade working as an accountant at
KPMG. This gave him his first contact with Chrysalis (a client), then
only a record label promoting the likes of Huey Lewis.
He helped to prepare its flotation on the Stock Exchange (1985) and, as
a result, got to know the company.
In 1987, Chris Wright, its founder and chairman, hired Huntingford as
corporate development director, where he gained a grounding in media
generally and discovered the ’Cinderella medium of radio’.
His first real break came shortly afterwards when Chrysalis bought a 20
per cent share in Metro Radio, covering the North-east and Yorkshire,
for pounds 5 million. Huntingford was on the board for five years as a
Chrysalis Radio - consisting of two Heart and three Galaxy stations -
now covers a potential 22 million adults, which roughly translates to 46
per cent of the UK population. These figures secure Chrysalis the number
one spot as the UK’s largest regional operator, by size of potential
coverage - and all within the past four years.
Huntingford puts the group’s success down to a substantial marketing
spend of ’more than pounds 3 million’. The spend for Heart 106.2 in
London was actually increased after its launch year.
The year ending August 1998 will be the first profit-making one for
Chrysalis Radio but Huntingford is already keen to communicate expansion
It has made a bid for the North-east licence - to be decided upon by the
Radio Authority on 10 March - and is also planning to submit for the
Central Scotland franchise. Chrysalis’s first bid in the North-east in
1993 was thwarted when the licence went to Jazz FM. Both new bids will
follow the Heart format.
Trevor Morse, the director of strategy at Chrysalis, says he has ’great
respect for a man who has taken the company from new beginnings to a
200-strong workforce.’ The managing director of Chrysalis Radio, Phil
Riley, among other compliments, says Huntingford is focused and very
SALLY OLDHAM 42 managing director Group Radio, Capital Radio
Sally Oldham’s career began at Haymarket Publishing as advertisement
manager for Campaign and Marketing but after two years she made a move
Over the past 17 years, Oldham has acquainted herself with most of the
major stations in the South and South-east and, a little further north,
Birmingham also features on her CV.
Oldham joined Capital in 1995 as station director of its Hampshire-based
Ocean Radio Group. In 1996, she was promoted to regional operations
director, which brought responsibility for all of Capital’s non-London
stations. The current position was officially bestowed in October of
last year but has only been a reality since mid-January.
Oldham light-heartedly refers to Capital’s failed bid for Virgin Radio
last year as ’probably not the best news we received in 1997.’ But she
believes the outcome has ’re-energized us and made us more focused.’
This will be necessary since some now doubt Capital’s ability to expand
in the London market.
Asked to describe her strengths, Oldham has little hesitation in coming
up with ’determined’, ’focused’, ’direct’ but ’above all, great
integrity, honesty and drive to get the results’. Some might see a
tension here between ethical probity on the one hand and hard-hitting
business aggression on the other. But Oldham seems comfortable with the
combination, making repeated references to radio as a responsible
Those in the industry who know Oldham agree with her self-assessment,
although they point out that as a newcomer to the London broadcasting
scene, she will have to make more of a personal impact before she can
expect to renew confidence in Capital.
One long-standing acquaintance, Linda Smith at the media buyer,
MediaVest, says Oldham is: ’One of the most single-minded people I know
and incredibly ambitious for any cause she’s promoting.’ And, although
Oldham ’doesn’t suffer fools gladly, she can be incredibly supportive’.
Smith believes Oldham will find a way round potential Monopolies and
Merger Commission restrictions, if there is a way to be found.
Oldham’s ambitions for Capital remain understandably vague at the
moment, since she has only just got her feet under the table. ’We’ve got
to make sure we’re not seen as a pushover. That means putting our
interests first, while being concerned about the health and wealth of
the industry as a whole.’
JOHN PEARSON 40 chief executive Virgin Radio
Pearson’s schoolboy plan was to work in newspapers but he was tempted by
radio because ’it looked like fun’. His career includes spells at Radio
Luxembourg, Capital, LBC and now Virgin. In between, there have been a
couple of jobs in newspapers and magazines.
The fun doesn’t appear to have gone out of radio yet. He describes it as
’the most reactive and compelling medium’. Radio, Pearson believes, must
constantly reinvent itself to stay ahead. ’Radio is a speedboat compared
with most media’s oil tankers.’
He takes pride in the station’s achievement of ’offering more than just
spots’. The relationship between clients and media owners is changing,
he says. ’Traditional trading is now just a small part of the
relationship, especially between multi-brand companies.’
The station’s main focus is the 20- to 44-year-old age group but Pearson
says there is ’a great deal’ of potential still to fulfil. As the radio
market becomes more competitive, accurate targeting and discrete
audience delivery to advertisers will be paramount. ’The challenge for
the next five years is to create a valuable brand using the culture of
Virgin and the energy of Chris Evans.’ The high-profile recent changes
at Virgin, snatched from the jaws of Capital by Evans’ Ginger
Productions (now Ginger Media Group), have prompted a soon-to-begin
pounds 5 million advertising campaign, probably using TV and featuring
Evans. The station has already capitalised the broad appeal of Evans
with a BSkyB sponsorship of his breakfast show. And another
multi-million pound sponsorship is also believed to be imminent.
Pearson is impressed by the unity the radio industry has shown and
believes it will ’probably be the single biggest factor in our continued
Strengths and weaknesses? The former, Pearson says, are ’not getting
bogged down in trivia and focusing on important things’, while the
latter is ’time management and setting unrealistic deadlines’. He
appears unfazed at the prospect of dealing with Evans on a daily basis.
’Chris is passionate about radio but his view is to let business people
run the business.’ Pearson is admired by industry colleagues for his
’infectious enthusiasm’, his ’impeccable understanding’ of radio as a
brand and the fact that he became bullish about radio long before it was
fashionable to be so.
NIGEL REEVE 45 managing director London News Radio
’I decided at 17 that a car was better than further education,’ says
Nigel Reeve, who began his working life selling ads for local
When the first licences for commercial local radio were granted, Reeve
jumped ship. From sales executive at Radio Orwell, he joined
Bournemouth’s 2CR in 1981 as sales manager before stints at two other
stations. He joined Classic FM, in 1991 and left in 1996 to become the
managing director of London News Radio.
He believes radio has made the leap from commodity - with a pile it
high, sell it cheap approach - to brand, as demonstrated by Classic FM.
’It’s now marketed as much to ad agencies as it is to consumers.’
When Reeve joined LNR, it was already attempting to throw off its shoddy
reputation and present a more professional image, under its new
shareholders, ITN, GWR and DMGT. FM is now branded News Direct, while
the AM station has gone back to its LBC roots. ’I hope I’ve brought a
degree of credibility to the station and a bit of stability,’ Reeve
His task for the future is to turn speech radio into a more distinct
brand, which ’attracts very specific advertisers and makes them think
more about the style of ads they run on our stations. No-one would dream
of using a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack on Classic FM. I want to see a
similar focus from our advertisers.’
Radio as a whole has the potential, he predicts, to become an 8 per cent
medium (almost double its current 4.8 per cent level). ’But to achieve
this, the industry must back the Radio Advertising Bureau. If we act as
loose cannons, we won’t get there.’ There are no signs of complacency at
News Direct and LBC. The former has increased its January 1997 weekly
audience of 295,000 to 440,000 in 12 months.
And while the reborn LBC’s audience figures are ’much more static’, he
is ’looking at ways to enliven the brand’. He expects to make
announcements over the next two to three months. Another less
high-profile change at LNR has been the establishment of its own
national sales house a year ago. Sales are already 70 per cent up on
January 1997. If Reeve hadn’t pursued his radio career, he thinks he
might have become a broadcast journalist.
However, ’in a perfect world, I’d play golf every day’.
PAUL ROBINSON 41 general manager Talk Radio
Robinson’s BSC (Hons) in metallurgy and MBA in business, followed by
three years as a marketer for an industrial gas company were an unlikely
start for a career in radio. But he caught the broadcasting bug at
Chiltern Radio, went on to become head of strategy for all the BBC
stations, and moved to Talk in August 1996. With the promotion of Travis
Baxter to chairman last year, Robinson was promoted to managing
director. He also heads up Country 1035 AM which, like Talk, is
majority- owned by CLT. Commercial radio, he says, has become a
’fully-fledged business over the past six years’.
Robinson’s impact on Talk Radio, which suffered from a limp launch, has
so far been a redefining of the audience and a determination to make it
a ’proactive listen’. The strategy seems to be working, with successive
increases in Rajar quarterly listening figures (up to an average of 2.4
million a week). Market share stands at 2 per cent.
’The task this year is to increase our rate of audience growth and to
get closer to profitability,’ Robinson says, although he concedes that
the latter ’won’t be for a while yet’. Advertising revenue, which leapt
by 80 per cent last year and now comes from an impressively blue-chip
line-up (including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, BT and McDonald’s) certainly
looks healthy enough.
Robinson hopes to increase it further by creating ’unique properties’
for advertisers, based on the fact that Talk is the UK’s only national
commercial speech station’. Talk’s programming has been beefed-up in
recent months with the appointment of new presenters such as Danny
Baker, Lorraine Kelly and Kirsty Young. There is also a heavier emphasis
on sport. And January saw the arrival of a new programme director with a
background in speech radio - John Simons, from Century Radio in the
Radio as a medium will survive the onslaught of new media channels,
Robinson predicts, because of its portability and the fact that it is a
’secondary medium,’ meaning that you can listen to it while doing other
The medium’s strength also means there should be plenty of room for all
the big players to grow. ’I want to work co-operatively with Virgin and
Classic FM, which means not trying to poach from each other. There’s no
point in us trying to cannibalise each others’ audiences.’
TIM SCHOONMAKER 40 chief executive Emap Radio
Tim Schoonmaker joined Emap in 1983 after completing a BA at Dartmouth
College and an MBA at the London Business School. From managing director
of the newspaper division, he became development director of the
Schoonmaker says he ’sold’ deregulation of the radio industry to the
company and was made chief executive of Emap Radio.
His view of radio is upbeat: ’Music is life, and radio will remain the
best mass-market medium for young people, provided there is investment
in talent and change,’ he declares.
Under Schoonmaker, Emap Radio has raised its weekly listening figures to
seven million. This success has been consolidated more recently through
the ’listening hard’ advertising campaign and the complete revamp of
Emap’s nine AM stations under the ’Magic AM’ umbrella. This exercise,
completed early last year, was promoted via posters, TV and the back of
Tesco till receipts.
Schoonmaker’s overriding concern is to assist advertisers with
’We’ve shifted the age of our ideal listener down by 10 years to 39.’
The Magic brand is now being rolled out into Emap’s radio stations in
the North-east and a cable TV version is also in the pipeline.
Despite his evident enthusiasm for radio and his belief that the
industry’s way forward is ’to continue seeing the enemy as other media,
not other radio groups,’ Schoonmaker maintains that the future for Emap
is ’to offer advertisers the best place for reaching young people across
radio, TV and press’.
A by-product of the failed Capital bid for Virgin was the launch last
November of Emap’s own national sales house, Emap On Air. This has
’already made a huge difference to our understanding of, and contact
with, the national advertising market,’ Schoonmaker says. It has also
allowed the radio stations to work more collaboratively with Emap’s
Schoonmaker is described as a ’very shrewd commercial animal who
believes he can make a lot more money out of commercial radio’ by
Douglas McArthur, managing director of the Radio Advertising Authority.
To one media buyer, he ’keeps his thoughts to himself - perhaps that’s
why Emap has done so well’; while another says the AM rebranding
exercise has been done with ’verve and vitality’.