THE PORTFOLIO CLUB: An advertising industry maxim used to be: get out by the time you're 50. But some aren't ready to pull on their slippers. Dominic Mills reports

In an ad for the job-seekers' portal Workthing, a woman peers into

the camera. 'You lot today,' she says. 'It's all work, work, work. You

don't have time for lunch. You don't even have time for friends. You're

not happy.' As the camera pulls back to reveal a group of men and women

playing bowls, a man interrupts. 'But what do we care,' he chortles.

'We're retired.'

One of the long-cherished maxims of the ad industry was: make your money

and then get out by the time you're 50 and still have your health.

Better that than the alternative, which is to hang around in a sort of

professional limbo, of the industry but not in it, lamenting the good

old days.

In the go-go years of the 80s there was a certain twisted logic to


If you weren't burned out by the time you were in your late 40s and

early 50s, you weren't a serious player anyway. And what good were the

fluffy skills of advertising and marketing when it came to dealing with

real business issues?

But there's a growing group of senior industry executives discovering

that there is indeed working life after advertising. They're coining a

new maxim: make your money, get out, and make a second career. But

there's a difference. It's called portfolio working, a post-industrial

term coined to describe people who choose to give their time to several

employers on a part-time basis.

This group, however, comprises alpha individuals, members of a top-notch

portfolio club whose experience and contacts allow them to put together

a clutch of part-time, non-executive roles at director level or


They juggle meetings, lunches, board sessions and papers. But they also

find time for the golf, the racing, the family and travel - and plenty

of the latter.

Far from disqualifying them from future employment, their advertising

and marketing skills are much in demand from small companies - many of

them on the fringes or in low-profile corners of the advertising and

marketing world - who want an old hand with all-round business and

people skills.

'If ever there was a business that equipped people to be non-executives,

it's advertising,' says John Bartle, founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, 15

months into his new portfolio career. He adds: 'At the top level you get

exposed to all kinds of business issues and obviously, because of your

clients, you get huge variety. With some of my portfolio jobs, I know

nothing about the sector that they're in. What they want is my

experience in building a business.'

None of these people are ready to give up work. Sure, like the stars of

the Workthing ad, they want to rebalance their lives, find time for

friends, family and interests. Not all are like Winston Fletcher, who

candidly admits: 'I want to work full time, for ever.' But they all have

too much energy to stop altogether.

Peter Warren, a director of Abbott Mead Vickers when it was listed,

says: 'I do it because I like it. I like the variety and I like the

stimulus of thinking about new and different things.'

The question, of course, is how to enter the hallowed portals of the

Portfolio Club. The answer, broadly, is by concerted effort and

planning, after which a certain momentum takes over. Bartle claims that

he first envisaged the idea a decade ago, and then planned it during his

last two years at BBH with the full support of John Hegarty and Nigel

Bogle. 'When Campaign announced I was retiring from BBH, I got a lot of

approaches. I didn't jump at the first thing and I turned down things

that would take up too much time or wouldn't also provide me with an

opportunity to learn.'

Former Guinness director Peter Mitchell also took a deliberate


With his leaving date contractually fixed and therefore well-known in

advance, the approaches started. A headhunter took him to Capital, while

ad industry contacts took him to the ASA and introductions through a

business acquaintance to Mountain View. 'As I got started the news

sparked other enquiries and I found I had more choice than


Martin Boase's first contact with the portfolio world started as a

non-executive with Emap, whose board he has just come off after ten

years, while still at BMP DDB. 'Others started as I wound down with

Omnicom,' he says. 'People approached me, and their approaches fell into

two categories: either they were people I knew, or they were things of

real interest.' Boase's experience as chairman of a public company, BMP,

and of fighting off a hostile takeover in 1989, gave his portfolio

career a real momentum, he believes. 'Public company experience such as

I had at BMP means I get a lot of approaches from other public companies

or those about to float.'

To join the Portfolio Club, it seems, is to enter a land of perpetual

opportunity. All those interviewed here said they had recently

considered or were in the process of adding to their portfolios. Without

exception, members of the portfolio club don't believe in comfort or

experience zones they should stick to. 'The fundamentals of any business

are pretty universal and that's where non-execs have to focus,' Mitchell

says .

Douglas McArthur embarked on his portfolio career with the knowledge and

encouragement of the RAB. He emphasises the two-way nature of the

compact. 'It's valuable to me, because it gives me a broadening

experience of other industries,' he says. Warren believes an automatic

cross-fertilisation process is at work. 'The deal is that I give them

something, but I want to learn.'

They offer experience and common sense in return. 'You're employed to be

blunt, and to criticise,' Fletcher says.

For Bartle, part of his role is as coach and mentor. 'Half the time

you're advising people on what to do, the other half it's reassuring

them that what they think is right. I've done a lot of the things

they're doing now, and I know the mistakes I made. If I can stop them,

that's fine. But I also get to ask the stupid questions. If I look

stupid, so what?' he says.

'Am I having fun?' Bartle asks rhetorically. 'I'll tell you what: the

Portfolio Club is everything it's cracked up to be.'


Age 63

Previous job Delaney Fletcher Bozell, chairman and founder

Portfolio Club member since mid-90s

Portfolio Club status Hyperactive

Motivation To keep busy

Working portfolio Advertising Standards Board of Finance (chairman);

Royal Institute (chairman); Brooke Lapping Productions (chairman); (non-executive director); Delaney Lund Knox Warren

(non-executive director); Bray Leino (non-executive director);

Barnardo's (trustee); Open College of the Arts (trustee); Barbican

Centre (advisory council); Portman Group (complaints panel); Lancaster

Management School (visiting professor)

Money About half the jobs are paid, half unpaid. 'I don't need the

money, but I wouldn't do it without.'

Working week 'Hard to say. My jobs are a patchwork quilt so in some

months there are big gaps - but I can always infill with writing and


Problem area 'Every game is an away game. Nobody can cover for you. You

are employed for yourself. It can be solitary.'

Advice ' Remember, you're employed to be blunt.'


Age 60

Previous job AMV plc, director

Portfolio Club member since 1996

Portfolio Club status Heavyweight

Motivation 'I'm no good at cutting the privet.'

Working portfolio Swapitshop (children's website, chairman); Hammond

Communication (PR, chairman); Radio Advertising Bureau (until March

2001, chairman); (real estate software, non-executive

director); The Sanctuary (women's spa club, non-executive director);

Farm on the Roseland Peninsula (partner)

Money All paid. 'I'll take equity or options. I like an upside.'

Working week Five days a week, but lots of short holidays 'and I sneak

off early on Fridays'.

Problem area None

Advice 'Only work for people or ideas you believe in.'


Age 56

Previous job Founder, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Portfolio Club member since January 2000

Portfolio Club status Strategically planned

Motivation 'After one career on the client side, a second in agency

life, I wanted a third.'

Working portfolio Edcomms (teaching aids provider, non-executive

chairman); i-Level (new-media agency, non-executive chairman); Dare

Digital (non-executive chairman); COI (non-executive director);

Constellation (headhunter, non-executive director); Barnardo's

(advisor); English Cricket Board (marketing committee)

Money Paid for all except Barnardo's. 'If they don't pay you there's a

danger they don't value you.'

Working week Approximately two days a week, plus lots of phone calls

Problem area Diary management

Advice 'Do it for people you like.'


Age 50

Current job Radio Advertising Bureau, chief executive

Portfolio Club member since 2000

Portfolio Club status Wannabe

Motivation 'Wanted to learn new stuff. RAB allows me to take on some

non-executive work.'

Working portfolio Sanctuary (music group which owns, inter alia, Iron

Maiden, non-executive director); IMD (music distribution, non-executive

director); Yahoo! (consultant); Workthing (consultant)

Money All paid

Working week Fits portfolio career in around RAB working week

Problem area None

Advice After a bad experience as non-exec of a software company, he

says: 'Do due diligence.'


Age 65

Previous job Guinness, strategic affairs director

Portfolio Club member since 1997

Portfolio Club status Professional

Motivation 'When a man is tired of business, he's tired of life.'

Working portfolio Capital Radio (non-executive director); Capital Radio

Advertising (non-executive chairman); Mountain View (ad agency/strategy

consulting, chairman); Advertising Standards Authority (council member);

Voluntary Service Overseas (marketing advisor); PBM Associates (trading

vehicle for personal consulting, partner)

Money All paid bar VSO. Suggested rate: 'Whatever the traffic will


Working week About four days a week

Problem area Balancing time and commitment across a lot of different


Advice 'As soon as you start to doubt your contribution - and you should

know first - get out.'


Age 68

Previous job Founder, BMP

Portfolio Club members since 1990

Portfolio Club status The Godfather

Motivation 'To keep myself in Bentleys.'

Working portfolio Maiden Outdoor (non-executive chairman); Heals

(non-executive chairman); New Media Industries (non-executive chairman);

Herald Investment Trust (non-executive chairman); Investment Trust of

Investment Trusts (chairman); Jupiter Dividend and Growth Trust

(chairman); BTVA (director); Advertising Standards Board of Finance

(director); Omnicom (consultant); New Star Investment Trust (director);

various property-linked Business Expansion Schemes (director)

Money As non-executive director or chairman of quoted companies, nearly

all Boase's portfolio jobs are paid (Maiden Outdoor pays pounds 35,000

plus options)

Working week 'Apart from board meetings, which are once a month, most of

my work is done on the phone.'

Problem area 'Your life can get very dotted about.'

Advice 'Start taking on one or two non-executive roles when you get to

50. If you're not financially literate, get yourself up to speed.'


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