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Jazz Shapers

Business Shapers: Peter Usborne


Peter Usborne MBE, Founder and Managing Director of Usborne Publishing
Business Shapers from Mishcon De Reya in association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers

Usborne Publishing is a fairly substantial children’s publishing company that I started 41 years ago and it has grown and grown and we are now I suppose one of the leading children’s book publishers in this country. I started my publishing career at Oxford University where I started a so called ‘funny’ magazine. My magazine wasn’t particularly funny but I kept going and it got funnier and funnier and eventually we turned it into Private Eye magazine. I left Private Eye after about 3 years because I was so called managing director and I had almost nothing to do and I ended up working for a large publishing group as a chairman’s assistant and after a couple of years of doing that my wife rang up and said, ‘I’ve got some news, you’re going to be a father’ and I marched into my bosses room which was just through the door and said, ‘John, can I stop being your assistant and can I have something to do with children’ and he said, ‘Okay Peter, you will find we own a publishing company called McDonald which has an educational publishing department. Get yourself a job’ and I did. I got promoted and promoted and eventually I met my boss and he said ‘What are you going to do next?’ and then I had a real moment of terror and said, ‘Well I really want to start my own company’ and he said to me, quite incredibly, ‘Ask me for the money’ and I did and I made a business plan and it involved borrowing £20,000 and I took it to a friend and said, ‘How’s this for a business plan?’ and he said, ‘Well it’s only got one mistake. Add a nought’. So I did and asked for £200,000. I got it and I started Usborne Publishing. I want my books to be as edible as those bottles of sweets one used to see in old fashioned Post Offices I remember so well from my childhood. I want my books to be something you want to put in your mouth. So my hope now is that I manage to hand over my company to my two children and we’re working quite hard on that; my kids are sort of early forties, very, very clever young people who I admire and am extremely proud of and if it were possible to hand over successfully the ownership and possibly the running of the company to my kids I would be a very happy corpse. I’d be looking down with great pleasure.

Peter Usborne featured on Jazz Shapers, a radio programme broadcast on Jazz FM, presented by Mishcon de Reya’s Director of Business Development, Elliot Moss.

On Jazz Shapers, entrepreneurs like Peter Usborne, who have defined and shaped business, are interviewed by Elliot. Alongside music from the risk takers and leaders of jazz, soul, funk and blues, they share the story of their careers and offer advice to anybody thinking of setting up a business.

You can listen to Jazz Shapers live every Saturday at 9am here.

To view previous films, click here.

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