Francis Goodwin is about to embark on the next stage of a 25-year
career that began, surprisingly enough, with a job flogging packaging
machinery in Venezuela. The tenuous link between these humble beginnings
and his new job at Maiden Outdoor is that he is moving into an
international role which may enable him to use his fluent Spanish.
In January, Goodwin will hand the post of managing director over to
David Pugh, who left Mills & Allen earlier this year. Pugh will head a
beefed-up sales team and take over the day-to-day marketing and
management of the poster operation.
Goodwin’s new role is less clear, mainly because he does not want to say
too much about it. His key task is to expand the company’s international
presence through acquisitions, initially in Europe. ’But it’s not
something I want to be drawn on, because obviously we will be looking at
businesses that our competitors may be interested in,’ he says.
The criticism of Maiden’s poor financial performance in the first half
of the year obviously still smarts, although Goodwin insists it was
merely a reflection of the state of the market. ’And you have to
remember that we are a publicly quoted company -which our competitors
are not - so we have to be honest while they can be a little more
economical with the actualite.’
His eyes light up when he talks about the time he spent in South
America, a part of the world he still adores. ’Travel is my biggest
annual expenditure,’ he admits. He went to Venezuela in 1974, when the
UK was in the grip of power cuts and the three-day week, and stayed for
His first unpromising job selling packaging machinery led to a much
better post as a marketing trainee at Colgate-Palmolive, a position he
says he would never have been offered in the UK ’as I’d only done an
HND’. By the time he left in 1980, he headed a team of eight. He
returned to the UK to work at Terry’s of York, shortly before United
Biscuits bought the company.
The next few years were patchy - Goodwin seemed to develop a knack of
joining companies that were about to be restructured. He was made
redundant three times - the last time was in 1991 from More O’Ferrall.
’That could have been awkward. I was coming up to 40 and media is
generally regarded as a young man’s business.’
During a short period as a freelance consultant, he met Ron Zeghibe, who
was at that time running an outdoor company in Holland. The pair joined
Ian Powell of More O’Ferrall to stage a ’bimbo’ (buy-in/management-buy
out) of Maiden.
Nearly a decade later, Goodwin clearly takes a paternal pride in the
company, relishing its family atmosphere and the fact that some members
of staff have been there for more than 20 years. He admits Maiden lacks
the scale of its Decaux and ClearChannel-owned rivals, but adds: ’Of
course, not everyone wants to team up with a monolithic US operation, or
a tightly controlled family organisation like Decaux.’
Goodwin on the future
’I don’t believe, as some have commented, that outdoor will become an
irrelevance in the age of digital media.
’There has been a sea-change in attitudes towards outdoor as the quality
of our service has improved, in terms of better sites, better research
and better marketing. But there’s still enormous potential in this
’The dot.com companies and digital TV services need to market
themselves, and they will use traditional media to do that.’