OPINION: QUESTION TIME WITH ... - The accidental salesman wants NatMags’ top job, Colin Grimshaw reports

As deputy managing director of the National Magazine Company, Duncan Edwards is the natural successor to the long-serving Terry Mansfield.

As deputy managing director of the National Magazine Company,

Duncan Edwards is the natural successor to the long-serving Terry


People close to him say he is impatient to take the top slot. But after

the publisher’s dire ABC results, isn’t there a danger his prize could

turn out to be a poisoned chalice?

Unsurprisingly, the high-flying 35-year-old puts a positive spin on


’The latest ABCs are a concern and there is a challenge for us but, over

the longer term, the trend is up,’ he insists.

’Women’s lifestyle magazines are selling more than ever, with new

entrants making for greater competition. Individual title sales are down

because there is a surfeit of product in some sectors.’

In common with many of the sharper operators in publishing, Edwards

believes the future lies in brand extensions, whether these are events -

such as the Cosmopolitan show - or spin-off titles, for instance next

month’s launches, Hair from Cosmopolitan and Buy the Best from Good


Edwards’ obvious enthusiasm belies the fact that he drifted into

magazine sales after leaving university. He had originally intended to

become a journalist: ’A prospect that would fill my colleagues with

horror.’ He later married one - Cosmopolitan’s Sarah Kennedy, with whom

he has two young sons.

In fact, he was working as a farmhand in Kent when he replied to a

Guardian ad and got himself a job as a sales executive at Media Week.

’My intention was to leave the job and go travelling with my friends,

after eight months,’ he admits.

The friends went off, but Edwards stayed behind and rose to advertising

manager. His boss at Media Week was Keith Legoy, who later followed him

to NatMags. ’He taught me to always aim as high as possible - and get to

the most senior person. He was absolutely right.’

Edwards’ big break came when he moved to Company as advertising


He was known at NatMags, heard there was a vacancy and went for it. ’A

lot of people told me I couldn’t move from trade to consumer press at

the same level. I made the move one level up.’

Later, when he was corporate business development director, Edwards

restructured classified sales - and created a corporate sales function

which has become a blueprint for the industry.

His career is dotted with impressive sales coups. In 1991, Edwards

introduced Guerlain to Company, which resulted in the fragrance house

buying 12 outside back covers. In 1997, after five months of

negotiations, he struck a pounds 2 million group deal with BAA, running

over seven magazines.

He confesses: ’I find the principles of selling incredibly easy to

grasp. If you like selling, you will be good at it. For me, it is much

less about the deal and more about how you get there.’

Outside office hours, Edwards plays rugby in the back row for Old

Merchant Taylors.

As far as football goes - despite the fact that he shares a name with a

Manchester United legend - he’s a Watford supporter through and


His father was the team doctor and he’s also an acquaintance of that

other famous Watford fan, Elton John.

Edwards on sales

’People who service, rather than sell, drive me bananas. When staff go

to see a client, I always ask: ’What are you going to sell them?’ I also

feel that the media knowledge level of both buyers and sellers is pretty

poor. They need to be aware that they are part of a wider marketing and

communications industry. It’s dangerous when people see themselves as