Media Headliner: Why Tabor could be Global Radio's driving force

Ashley Tabor's experience in management and at Capital has industry insiders predicting great things.

We admit it. The emergence of Global Radio has caught us on the hop. Back at the tail-end of June, when Global tabled a bid for Chrysalis Radio, our coverage pretty much focused on the money, which was coming courtesy of the so-called Coolmore Mafia; and on the likely nature of the relationship between Charles Allen, Global's chairman, and Phil Riley, the Chrysalis Radio chief executive.

We gave only the briefest of name checks to the 29-year-old Ashley Tabor, who just happens to be Global's chief executive; or indeed to Richard Park, who announced his intention to terminate his consultancy role at Emap and join the Global management team in the week after the Chrysalis bid was unveiled.

We weren't alone in this. After all, from a media industry perspective, Riley and Allen were the heavyweights in this story, the people with a genuine gravitas and a management track record in this rough and tumble world - particularly Allen, who had been the chief executive of ITV.

The story was all about how Allen was going to be a force to be reckoned with once more and whether Riley would be entirely comfortable in serving that end. True, we were more than aware of Park's track record in taking Magic, a relatively weak brand when he arrived at Emap, and turning it around - making it, for instance, the leading station in the fiercely competitive London market.

We were also vaguely aware that Tabor (like Park) had been a producer at Capital Radio during its glory days and was now big in the music management business.

Neither, somehow, felt like serious players at this stage. Park seemed to be leaving radio behind - he's now better known as a TV personality. An opinionated, but often brittle presence in talent shows such as Fame Academy, where he struggled gamely with his role as headmaster, he didn't come across as a likely media mogul. And Tabor could surely be discounted, largely on the (gloriously prejudiced) basis that anyone who's a mover and shaker in talent management in today's music industry must be 99 per cent froth.

Well, we know better now, obviously. Last week, as the Chrysalis deal was finalised, Riley revealed that he'd decided to take the money (a £450,000 pay-off) and run; while Allen's contribution was to head off on holiday for the whole of the month of August.

Global's spin doctors have been quick to quash any speculation that Riley might have been eased out - an easy enough assumption for any mischievous journalist to make, largely on the basis that the Global tribe already has enough chiefs.

In an e-mail to staff, Riley said he'd decided to view the takeover as an opportunity (in the time honoured fashion) to step back and contemplate pastures new. He also talked (again in textbook style) of Chrysalis and Riley deserving a rest from each other and of Tabor's regrettably doomed efforts to persuade him to stay.

All very proper. But one thing's for sure - the new management team doesn't mess about. Within hours, the Chrysalis Radio phones were being answered as Global and the media industry was beginning to realise that, in Tabor, it might have a dynamic new force in its midst.

What we'd not really twigged before is that he is the bridge between the money and the talent. He's linked in to the Coolmore Mafia (media-speak for the friends and associates of the horse-racing magnate John Magnier) through his father, Michael Tabor. Tabor senior made a fortune by building up and then selling a chain of UK betting shops, becoming a top-rank racehorse owner along the way - Galileo, the winner of the 2001 Derby, was one of his nags, as was High Chaparral, the 2002 winner.

He is the part-owner of the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, fashionable watering hole for successive waves of the beautiful and not so beautiful people in British showbiz - the likes of Michael Winner and Joan Collins having been joined by the Hugh Grant circle and, more recently, by Tabor junior, his mate Simon Cowell and the pride of the British music scene.

Tabor's management company, Global Talent Group, which he set up in 1998, handles the likes of Corrine Bailey Rae and, back in September 2006, he was involved in a bit of a kerfuffle, covered with relish by the red-tops, when it was revealed that he had sneaked one of his acts, the newly formed boyband, Avenue, on to The X Factor - a show supposedly for unsigned performers.

One thing's for sure - he's well connected in that manufactured world where new media formats and music collide. And now that Riley has gone, it will be all the easier for Tabor, in partnership with Park, to make a distinctive impact in radio. A dynamic duo may well be emerging - and according to Jonathan Barrowman, the head of radio at Initiative, they could well be the right people in the right place at the right time.

He explains: "The existing structure at Chrysalis is sound and they were up for a challenge before Global came on the scene. Now, with Park's ideas and Tabor's drive, the company can be really innovative. Park knows how to develop a radio station and he will have views on where he can take the company next in terms of acquisitions, too."

And in fact there has already been speculation in the press that Global has been in talks with Emap, which now wants to sell its radio interests. Analysts say, for instance, that Emap's Kiss would merge beautifully with Global's Galaxy. They have the same audience profile and complement each other in terms of geographic spread. Combined, they could add up to a compelling proposition.

And if Tabor can pull that one off, he'll certainly prove there's a lot more to him than boybands and Barbados. As one radio industry source puts it: "I'd put money on him becoming a dynamic force - he has that Capital background and he has very clear views on what has been missing from radio. He's the only son of an extremely successful man - and sometimes, people in that situation can tend to sit back a bit. But Ashley Tabor is incredibly driven. I think some people in the media industry are going to be surprised at just how driven he is."