Monday, December 12, 2016

Long fellow

Richard Brooks in the Sunday Times says Sir David Arculus is front-runner for the job of first chair of the new BBC (unitary) board.

Sir David (6 '7", 70, Bromsgrove School and Oriel, Oxford) joined the BBC World Service as a trainee straight from university in 1968. "I realised I was never going to be the greatest BBC journalist so I tried management." Within two years he had taken an MBA at the London Business School, and joined East Midland Allied Press as a corporate planner in 1970.

It was a small newspaper group (it printed the Cambridge University newspaper Varsity in those days) with a handful of magazines including Angling Times and Motor Cycle News. Arculus, along with Motor Cycle News editor Robin Miller, set about launching a whole range of new magazines, including Smash Hits, selling 1m copies a fortnight within a year of launch in 1978. Q, Mojo, Empire, Looks, Bliss, More, and Just 17 followed in quick succession; then came gossip with Heat, Closer and Grazia, and For Him magazine was transformed into FHM.

The pair moved the group into radio, and EMAP grew into the UK's second biggest commercial operator, with 38 stations including Magic and Kiss. Rivals were jealous of the group's success, re-writing the initials to read Every Meeting A Party. Arculus left EMAP after boardroom infighting in 1997. The radio business was sold off to Bauer in 2007 for £1.14bn.

Arculus became chief operating officer at United Business Media, with interests in commercial TV at Anglia, Meridian, HTV, the emerging Channel 5 and the Daily Express. He then led the buyout of IPC magazines. He also headed the buy-out of Earls Court and Olympia, which hosted many of Emap's London trade events.

He's believed to have turned down an invitation to be overall ITV Controller in 1992, and, later, to chair Trinity Mirror and Wm Morrison, but agreed to be unpaid chairman of the Government's Better Regulation Task Force under Tony Blair. Arculus was chairman of Severn Trent when it misled regulators and overcharged customers; it was he who blew the whistle to Ofwat. He spent 10 years on the board of Barclays to 2007.  He chaired the O2 mobile-phone group and joined Telef√≥nica's board after the Spanish company bought it.

He was a non-executive director for Pearson from 2006 to 2015 - this may have put him in touch with the current BBC chair, Rona Fairhead. Earlier this year he was made High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire. He lives in an arts and crafts manor house near the village of Elton, with 40 acress bordering the River Nene, planted with over 1,000 cricket bat willow and black poplar trees to become "carbon neutral".

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