Media Lifeline: John Billett

Won't life in retirement be just a little too sedate for the pre-eminent media auditor?

1954: A rather earnest (some even claim to detect touches of pomposity) and precocious 11-year-old Exeter Cathedral school pupil named John Billett is anointed as Exeter Cathedral Choir's Choirboy of the Year. He repeats the feat the following year, but tragically misses out on the treble (no pun intended) when his voice begins to break in 1956.

1981: Having flirted with several career options - trainee bank manager, choral singer, cocktail lounge pianist, rugby referee, media director of Allen Brady and Marsh - Billett launches his own full-service media agency, Billett and Company.

1989: Billett and Company is acquired by Chris Ingram and Associates - and as a senior figure in the expanded group, Billett is a key figure in its subsequent flotation as CIA (later rebranded Tempus). But as CIA Billett veers ever more towards offering auditing services, many clients feels it's inappropriate to have an auditor owned by an agency group - and Billett subsequently buys himself, and his agency, out in 1995.

2000: The Billett Consultancy (as it is now called) serves notice of its intention to become the UK's pre-eminent media auditor when it buys one of its rivals, Barsby Rowe, for an undisclosed sum. It then launches an international expansion phase, opening offices in Europe and allying itself with its US counterpart, Media Performance Monitoring America.

2007: Having sold Billetts to Thomson Intermedia in 2005 for £13 million (£10 million of which he trousers personally), and now approaching retirement age, he decides to bow out of Billetts and spend more time at his pile in Norfolk. He now focuses on what he does best - pontificating about rugby - while contemplating the demolition of an eyesore of a 1720s barn on his land, to make room for more wildflower meadow.

Fast forward ...

2008: Bored with this contemplative life, however, he returns for one last hurrah. After injecting some of his spare capital into John Ayling & Associates, the two plot a reverse takeover of Chris Ingram's agency group, Ingram.

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