MEDIA: HEADLINER; Katz’s prize fighter prepares to build on his initial success

Simon Lynds is equipped for a long hard struggle at Katz. Claire Beale reports

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