Shaper: Barry Hearn

Show aired on 23rd April 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Dizzy Gillespie with For The Gypsies, a nice jaunty way to start the programme here on Jazz FM. Good morning, it’s me, Elliot Moss with Jazz Shapers. It’s the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, a Business Shaper and have we got a shaper for you today, it’s none other than Mr Barry Hearn who is probably one of the most famous people behind the biggest sports in the world, he’s brought the world snooker, he’s brought the world boxing on a major scale, golf, darts, fishing, you name it, he’s done it. He’s the man behind it. You are going to be hearing lots of fantastic stuff about Barry and his story. In addition to hearing from Barry, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business and then there is the music and we have got some fantastic stuff today from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul. One of my favourites, Donald Bird, blue’s man Eric Bibb and this tribute to Fats Waller from none other than Jason Moran.

Jason Moran with his take on Fats Waller and that was Ain’t Misbehavin’. This is Jazz Shapers and as I said, Barry Hearn is my Business Shaper today. It is forty five years condensed into one hour of radio, it’s never going to be enough. An extraordinary forty five years in business by the way, that’s not his age though. Barry you don’t look a day older than forty five obviously.

Barry Hearn
Unfortunately I am coming up for sixty eight which is a bit of a shame but thank you for the compliment, I will stay for the entire programme.

Elliot Moss
That’s very kind of you, it’s lucky really because we haven’t got anyone else. Barry Hearn, as I said, the man behind snooker, brought us snooker and if you like me, remember watching from the 80’s on, it was courtesy of Barry Hearn. If you are into boxing and recently the amazing Anthony Joshua, well Eddie his son is behind that as well and if you have imagined why snooker became a global phenomenon, it’s because Barry Hearn and his business has made it so. Thank you so much for joining me.

Barry Hearn
Pleasure.

Elliot Moss
Now I imagine you became a chartered accountant back in 1970, your father and your mother weren’t professionals, they had a different background. How did young Barry Hearn become the Barry Hearn that became a professional?

Barry Hearn
Well my father was a bus driver but unfortunately was ill most of his life, he died when he was forty four, succession of heart attacks. My mother was my driving force. She was a char lady. She used to clean people’s houses and it began when I was twelve years old. We, obviously we were council house people and she came home one day and said, ‘when you grow you are going to be a chartered accountant’ and I said, ‘why?’ and she said, ‘because the man whose house I clean told me today you never see a poor one’. You know that line sat in my head and still to this day, that was my inspiration – you never see a poor one – and I said to my mother ‘what do they do?’ and she said, ‘I haven’t got a clue’. But I would go to school and careers masters would say, ‘let’s talk about the future’ and I’d say, ‘waste of time. I am going to be a chartered accountant’ and of course in those days in the sixties, there were a lot of barriers to entry from kids from my background. The old school tie, hadn’t gone to University, it wasn’t about ability, it was more about class structure and I was so lucky that I had a distant uncle who had a very small tiling business in Southend on Sea and he had a word with his auditors or his accountants which were not exactly the largest firm in the world, their address was 68½ Upper Thames Street. True story. A three partner firm and they agreed to take me on and they gave me the chance with just ‘O’ levels to become a chartered accountant which I am proud to say I qualified at twenty one and was an FCA at twenty six and I am honoured to be a member of such a fine institute.

Elliot Moss
Now that sounds the way you talk about it as if it was yesterday. Is your life super clear to you? I mean you obviously have been remarkably successful and you continue to be so and it is not just you know, legacy and your son and so on. Is it just you just grab hold of every day?

Barry Hearn
Yeah. I have always had I think a… I have been limited in brain power from an academic point of view but I’ve had… the two greatest assets has been focus; once I make my mind about something I am relentless and work ethic. I have never minded spending sixteen hours plus a day working because I enjoy my job and that’s the case today. My wife is constantly saying to me, you know, ‘is retirement round the corner?’ and I am like, ‘well if death is round the corner, yes’ but I enjoy my life and that makes me actually… I’ve got the accountant in me, I write a lot of things down, you know, I make copious notes on everything. Nothing is really unrehearsed because I am a professional, I do what I do to the best of my ability. Whilst the ability is sometimes limited, I of course have a great team of people around me and some great advisors around me that I also rely on but I never give them credit. We have a rule, if something works, it’s Bazza’s idea and if somethings not, well we find someone to blame.

Elliot Moss
There you go. Listen if you haven’t picked that up as advice then you have got to stick it right on your wall and look at that every single day. Barry Hearn talking to me on Jazz Shapers. Lots more coming up from him. Time for some more music. This is Eric Bibb with Tell Riley.

The blues man Eric Bibb with Tell Riley. Barry Hearn, the chairman of Matchroom Sport is my Business Shaper today. Going from like that as you said, you are a professional and professionals prepare. Friendship occurs with none other than the legendary Steve Davis, it happens, it evolves over the late 70s into the early 80s. At what point talking about preparation did you realise that this thing called snooker was going to potentially be a global phenomenon? How did you know it was going to be snooker? And then how did you make it happen?

Barry Hearn
Well someone much cleverer than I said it’s better to be born lucky than good looking. You know…

Elliot Moss
He’s very good looking by the way, I have to add that bit. He’s giving me the stare…

Barry Hearn
The whole point about people, I bought a chain of snooker clubs on behalf of a company that I was finance director of which I subsequently ended up owning a chunk of the company but at that time it was just a phone call. You know you are looking for things to do, do you fancy a chain of snooker halls? Now that happened and I did and I bought them for the asset value. I thought to myself ‘I don’t know much about snooker, I don’t know anything about snooker clubs’ but I know they are freehold properties in the middle of town centres so I can see the downside is limited, they look the right price so we bought them. Unbeknown to me within twelve months the BBC decided although they had been airing Pot Black since 1969, started off in black and white I won’t bore you with the said stories of trying to watch snooker in black and white but in the sort of mid-70s the BBC started showing the World Snooker Championships and the programme drove an enormous amount of interest into the sport and I was the biggest snooker club operator in the country but it was just the right time, right place. You can be a genius, if you are not in the right time, right place or the market is against you, it doesn’t matter how bright you are, you are not going to come out a winner. It’s a bit like the sports promotion game, you know, people are very complementary saying ‘how did you do this’, ‘wow you’re great’, you know, ‘Anthony Joshua, where did you…’. Look at the end of the day, you can be the worst promotor in the world if you’ve got the best product you’ll be successful. Conversely you can be the best promotor in the world as of course I am and if I haven’t got the best product, I will be a failure. So we are very much in the hands of circumstance and you do need the lucky break along the way. In my life I have had ten, twenty very lucky breaks because obviously the man upstairs felt sorry for me and gave me a lift.

Elliot Moss
I mean I know luck plays a role and then there’s the old adage about the more you practice the luckier you get and all that but, but the kind of self-deprecating piece aside, there is that lucky break but then what you did with it, the doors opened. How did you the convert that opportunity into something that became…?

Barry Hearn
Yeah. The secret is obviously is, yes there is a certain amount of luck involved. Once you have had that luck the skill set then comes in to the equation and you start going back on some really basic business rules. You know, business rules of supply and demand, the business rules of targeting your market. The most important is obviously exploitation of sport. The exploitation where, and it can be just time, you spend every working minute, every working day concentrating with the focus you need to have on exploiting a sport to its maximum advantage. Now that sounds a bit brutal but actually sport is all about money, about aspiration, about inspiration, about dedication and to do, to hit all of those targets you need to expand the monetarisation of the sport. And that was my strength. I saw, I saw an opportunity which was only there if I took advantage of that opportunity and created various opportunities within the feeling of the time. Whether you are going off to China to play in the Great Hall of the People for the Chinese Government and maximising the media involvement around it, making sure your personal profile, your corporate profile was high, making sure people knew how to reach you if they wanted you, making sure you knocked on enough doors, making sure that you never accepted the word ‘no’, totally, relentless pursuit of an objective.

Elliot Moss
You had better make sure you took notes on that lot because there is some proper making sure objectives there from everyone listening to follow. Barry Hearn, my phenomenal Business Shaper. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that, some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning here on Jazz FM, I have the privilege of talking to someone who is shaping the world of business. If you have missed any then iTunes is your destination, there are probably around a hundred of the previous two hundred programmes, if you are flying with British Airways in the future, make sure you catch us over there as well. Barry Hearn is my Business Shaper today and I hope you have pen and paper ready because he has been sharing some simple truths about how to succeed in business which is what this programme is all about. Snooker as you said, the relentlessness was one thing and the knowledge of the sport and exploitation as you went along and monetisation were absolutely key and I get all that. There is also this sense that the next thing that comes along when you said ‘I’ve had ten or twelve lucky breaks or ten or twenty’. You were behind the Bugner fight back in 1987?

Barry Hearn
Mmm.

Elliot Moss
You hadn’t promoted a boxing match before if my sources are correct?

Barry Hearn
No.

Elliot Moss
So you move from snooker where you said, ‘I didn’t know and then I knew’. How again did you decide that that was going to be what you did next?

Barry Hearn
I thought after you know, if you go back in chronological order, I had sold my snooker hall company in 1982. I was thirty four. I thought I could retire you know. I had made quite a lot of money – for 1982 standards and of course I thought ‘well now I will just go and play cricket and golf, go fishing you know, done my bit, paid for my house’ and after about six weeks I am climbing up the wall. Not enough action. So I had always been keen on boxing. I tried it myself in my late twenties and I frankly wasn’t very good. I spent most of the time on the floor and I think you are supposed to be standing up but I nevertheless appreciate boxing. I was a fight fan. I didn’t think the standard of fights that was on offer to the public as a fan was good enough and I did a couple of very small shows just to sort of see if I knew what I was… if I was right in what I was thinking that there was an opportunity. I probably at that time was looking to expand my interest in sport, you know, whereas I started Matchroom in 1982 as a fun thing for me and Steve to go round the world and spread the gospel of snooker and build the characterisation of the players. By the time I got to ’87, being a Gemini I do float around a bit like a butterfly and I thought ‘I need something extra to sort of motivate me’ and I just sat there as a fan. Nearly every event I do, I do for me. Not nearly, every event I do, I do it for me and I style the event, the customer experience, you know, the technical quality. I style it on what I would like to watch on the basis that I am king of the working class if you like. I think I am a blue collar prototype. I know what people want to do with their time. They want to be entertained, they don’t want to be ripped off. They want to get value for their ticket price etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So I thought it would be fun to go into boxing and do a fight that I as a fight fan want to see and the fight I wanted to see was Frank Bruno – the Nation’s favourite – against Joe Bugner who everybody hated because he beat Henry Cooper. I mean this is probably before the time of a lot of your listeners but it was massive and the question then is – how do you suddenly jump in to boxing and I phoned Joe Bugner up in his home in Melbourne and said, ‘would you come over and fight?’ and he said, his own words were, ‘it’ll cost you a lot of money’ and I said, ‘Joe I think you got ten thousand dollars for your last fight, I’ll give you two hundred and fifty thousand pounds’ and there was a pause at the end of the line and then Joe said, ‘and what plane did you want me on?’ and I that night went round to see Terry Lawless who sadly is no longer with us, and Frank Bruno who had had a fight cancelled in the few days previous and just slapped a contract in front of him, ‘here are, do you want it or not?’. Three hundred thousand pound blah blah blah and he signed. So suddenly I had this fight, I went to see Tottenham, Irving Scholar was the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur and said ‘I want to do it at Tottenham’, I don’t know why I even went there and it all sort of clicked into plan and it was a fabulous, fabulous experience because I had no idea what I was doing. But it made a shed load of money.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from Barry Hearn, my Business Shaper. Time for some music, Donald Byrd and Falling Like Dominoes.

That was Donald Byrd with Falling Like Dominoes. Barry Hearn is my Business Shaper, the man behind snooker, you’ve just been listening to how boxing has happened. I just want to take you back for a second, you said something very… something that resonated with me about your mum and your mum had said, ‘I never see a poor chartered accountant’ and then as you said you made your money first time round with the sale of the snooker clubs and the halls and so on. It sounds like money isn’t really your driver Barry, it sounds like you are not really in control of of… that bit just happens, it’s a consequence. It sounds like you are driven by, as you said, wanting to do stuff that pleases you and I don’t mean that in a selfish way but just stuff that drives you, that challenges you. Is that fair?

Barry Hearn
I think as you get older and richer you can develop principles you didn’t have before that’s for sure. Money was my driver no question about that. I wanted to be rich you know, I’d grown up on a council estate looking at the houses on the top of the hill and wanting one, you know. I didn’t feel envy, I just wanted it and I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have one. Today’s world is a world of much bigger opportunity for young people. In those days it wasn’t. I had businesses starting up when I was twelve years old, you know, I had car washing rounds, window cleaning rounds, gardening rounds. I organised the kids to do it, you know, blokes from school, pals, whatever. Anything to do, babysitting rounds, cleaning shop windows and anything to make a few quid because the only reason you were limited was time and the biggest excuse people use ‘I haven’t got time for that’. This is total rubbish. You’ve always got time for everything, it’s just that you are lazy or you sleep too long or you socialise too much. I led a very structured life with an end goal position of becoming wealthy not for the fact that I needed money but I wanted to know that I was a winner. You know, business is just the same as sport. Exactly the same. You have to have an inbuilt ability first. That’s what God gives you. Secondly you have to apply yourself. You have to be determined. You have to be able to be dedicated. You don’t make excuses for failure. You don’t accept failure. You will fail on occasions.

Elliot Moss
I was going to ask you about that. Have you ever failed in your own eyes?

Barry Hearn
Yes of course loads of times and I keep those stories so quiet I couldn’t begin to tell you. My ego doesn’t tell you. I only concentrate on winning.

Elliot Moss
But that’s a serious point though isn’t it?

Barry Hearn
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Because obviously in four and a half decades of working and actually being at the top of what you do, you are going to have knocks. What I am interested, I won’t ask you the stories don’t worry.

Barry Hearn
No, no.

Elliot Moss
But it is how you’ve reacted to them. What have you… every time that’s happened…

Barry Hearn
I’ve reacted to them by working harder. When people tell me about productivity, ‘oh you know, how do we boost our productivity’, I say, ‘well have you tried getting up an hour earlier and going to bed an hour later?’. I said, ‘you will add 10 or 15% to your productivity if you can be sharp’, you know, again things like physical fitness are important because it does keep you alert, keeps your brain working so you have to build that into your routine. Now when we are analysed 24 hours a day it is amazing how much time we waste. So try and eliminate waste because we are only on this earth for a short amount of time so providing you can maximise and again I interrupt that and say my father was not an influence on me in… he was an influence only in one way. Because he had had several heart attacks during his life from age twenty eight to forty four, the only thing he taught me was, because he was frightened, ‘make every second of your life count because you don’t know how long you’ve got’. That again sat with me as a great piece of advice so I maximise every moment of my life. I don’t waste, I hope not, a second of any day because these seconds are priceless, they don’t come round again. So you put that combination of you need a bit of luck, you are prepared to sacrifice whatever needs to be sacrificed, you have to be totally relentless if you really want it. Some people don’t want it. Not everyone is born an entrepreneur. Some people have a calling. They may want to be nurse, they may want to be a nun. Other people like not having responsibility. Getting a salary, a regular salary every month. That suits their psyche and good luck to them. People like me don’t, we play business like we play sport. We play to win. We play to be the best we can and whereas money loses significance as you get older and as you make more, unfortunately the downside is I don’t get any time to spend any money because I am always working but the point is, I don’t win belts, cups, trophies, gold medals. I win balance sheets and profit and loss accounts and that’s my game and I want to win that game as much as any athlete that will be going to Rio later this year and if you don’t have that application and dedication you will not be the success you could have been. You may still be successful by your standard but it depends on the horizons you set yourself.

Elliot Moss
Final chat with Barry plus we will be playing a track from Christian Scott, that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Christian Scott with Twin and if you don’t know him, he is an American trumpeter, he’s thirty three and he’s been nominated for the Jazz Innovation of the Year Award at the Jazz FM Awards which is sponsored by Mishcon De Reya; that’s this Tuesday coming up and it is going to be live here on Jazz FM from 9.00pm with Chris Philips. Barry Hearn is my Business Shaper just for a few more minutes and you said we have got to make every second count so I am going to do my best. You’ve achieved so much and I can hear in you why sometimes you hear when you hear a fantastic athlete who carries on delivering, who carries on wanting to be the very best they can be by their own standards. You meet a lot of very successful people Barry. What differentiates the super stellar ones from the slightly almost there but not there? What’s the thing that you go ‘they’ve got it or they haven’t got it’?

Barry Hearn
It’s not one individual thing. I mean the first thing you look for is something operating in the six inches between their ears. A lot of people are born, in fact in life, people are born. Everyone is born with some unique ability. The sadness is that most of them don’t have the opportunity to find out what that ability is through circumstance or wherever. Top athletes, the difference between being what I call world class and a global superstar involves a whole myriad of different assets and will include definitely a brain, certainly they’ve got to be the best at what they do but they’ve got to be a bit more than that. In today’s world you have to be a character, you have to have some type of personality link and contact with your audience and it is interesting at this time because I think we’ve got a new one on the horizon here, you know, I thought Steve Davis had it and I think Phil Taylor in the World of Darts had it but I think Anthony Joshua, that won the world heavyweight title a couple of weeks’ ago, he’s a global superstar in the making that will transcend sport. What you look with a real athlete to make a massive contribution to the world and to himself and his family is something different to everyone else. I would say David Beckham’s got it, you know. Was he the greatest footballer of all time – well close, he was a good footballer, he was certainly world class. Was he a global superstar – knocking on the door but outside of that his persona has been lifted to where he is more famous post-play than he was in play. Anthony Joshua has certainly go that physical attributes to be reigning and ruling the heavyweight division for the next ten years should he keep his feet on the ground and apply himself properly. But more importantly than that his persona, his brain and the way he expresses himself is such that he will appeal to a global market rather than just a boxing market. I think we all look at our businesses and we look at our life and we say ‘okay we’re the top at what we do’, do we sit back and say ‘okay just cash in on that’ or do we look to see how we can expand our horizons, look into different areas and actually appeal to a much bigger audience and in the case of Anthony Joshua, it’s a global audience.

Elliot Moss
Now the difference between those people you have identified and you have done it very eloquently is that you run a business, you have your son, who is now being successful in his own right. Legacy is different for you versus the sportsmen and what for you – is legacy even a word you talk about or is it not like that because I know you are also, it doesn’t get publicized very much but you spend a lot of time and you donate a lot of money to charity. So is that a big part of what you want Barry Hearn, you know, when people think about Barry Hearn, that’s what they think about?

Barry Hearn
Well I mean I think the showman in me doesn’t really care about that, the showman wants people to remember the 1985 world snooker championships or Froch Groves tour at Wembley you know because that’s what I live for, to produce those type of evenings that sit in people’s mind-set for the rest of their life. As a person and you change during your life because your priorities are different, the legacy for me has always been about family. So my son runs my boxing division, my daughter runs my TV platforms and I have a wonderful group of people that I care about so legacy and an expanded family has always been my priority. Once you have established that and you say to yourself, you know, you look in the mirror and say, ‘you’ve done okay’. I mean I have done okay. I don’t think I have done great because I could have been twenty times bigger but it wasn’t the lifestyle I chose. I chose to live within my own confines of family. Once you have done that, you do tend as you get older and softer and closer to God to actually be a bit of a nicer person and it’s a bit scary but I am trying that route at the moment.

Elliot Moss
Well listen Barry, we don’t know each other well at all but you seem like a very nice man, I am pleased I didn’t meet you twenty years ago because you probably would have punched me by now. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here, thank you so much for doing it. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Barry Hearn
Well this goes back to my nostalgia days as I say, as you get older and whilst I am not going to try and tell you I am a great jazz aficionado or blues or soul.

Elliot Moss
But you were in a blues band.

Barry Hearn
But I was in a blues band at school in 1965 and we weren’t very good and we did get drunk far too often but it seemed to be the appropriate thing to do because when drunk, blues seems to have so much more significance and I chose a song that if I recall correctly, I played bass guitar with a little bit of vocals and it’s Howlin’ Wolf and Smokestack Lightening.

Elliot Moss
Smokestack Lightening from Howlin’ Wolf, the choice of my Business Shaper today, Barry Hearn who confessed or rather admitted he had been in a blues band himself. Talk about someone with complete focus, he knew he wanted to be wealthy from a very very young age, someone who is prepared to work hard, really hard, believes in work ethic being at the core of things and as he said using his own words ‘what’s important in business is the relentless pursuit of an objective’. Absolutely brilliant advice from my stellar Business Shaper today, Barry Hearn. Do join me again same time, same place, that’s 9.00am next Saturday here on Jazz FM. Coming up next, it’s Nigel Williams with a look ahead to next Tuesday’s Jazz FM awards. Stay with us.

Barry Hearn qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1970 and spent several years with a major firm of international accountants before moving into the commercial world as finance director of Kensal House Investments. After a period in the fashion industry and property development, he became chairman of Lucania Snooker Clubs in 1974 and began to involve the snooker hall chain in amateur tournament promotions.

In 1976 Steve Davis began playing at the Romford Lucania Club and the two struck up a friendship which was to have a major influence on the world of snooker. In 1982 Riley Leisure acquired the chain of Lucania Snooker Clubs for £3.1 million leaving Barry free to concentrate on the development of snooker, both in the UK and overseas.  With the support of the Matchroom professional players, Barry promoted snooker all over the world and has been particularly instrumental in the development of the game in the Far East.

Barry began his involvement in big time boxing in 1987. Matchroom Boxing has since risen to the top in both Britain and Europe, staging over 20 major arena promotions throughout the season, including British, Commonwealth, European and World Championship bouts.

Together with Sky Sports, Barry helped discover and develop such champions as Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Herbie Hide, Francis Ampofo, Steve Collins, and Jim McDonnell. In more recent times, in conjunction with his son Eddie, the Hearns have set the likes of Carl Froch and Olympian Anthony Joshua on the path to glittering success. Indeed, on May 31, 2014, Matchroom Boxing promoted the biggest boxing show in British history as 85,000 people gathered at Wembley Stadium to see Carl Froch KO George Groves in the eighth round to retain his WPA and IBF World Super-Middleweight titles.

As Chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation over the past decade, Barry has overseen one of the sports business’s biggest success stories as darts has developed into a massive arena sport. With vast TV ratings in the UK and across Europe, the PDC is set to conquer the world as its stars like Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor and Michael Van Gerwen have established themselves as household names.

In March 1995, Barry Hearn assumed a controlling interest in Leyton Orient Football Club and over a twenty year period stabilised the club on a sound financial footing. Following almost two decades at the helm, in July 2014, Hearn sold his stake in the club to Italian Francesco Becchetti as Orient look forward to the next chapter in its storied history.

Finally, returning to his roots, in December 2009, Barry was voted in as Chairman of World Snooker and has since assumed a leading role as the revitalisation of the sport has gone from strength to strength. In five years, Hearn has more than doubled the total prize-money and turned snooker into a real global sport.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“My mother was my driving force. She was a char lady. She used to clean people’s houses.”

“Once I make up my mind about something, I am relentless.”

“I have a great team of people around me and some great advisers that I rely on….but I never give them credit.”

“I think as you get older and richer you can develop principles you didn’t have before.”

“…sport is all about money, about aspiration, about inspiration, about dedication…”

“I think I am a blue collar prototype. I know what people want to do with their time. They want to be entertained, they don’t want to be ripped-off.”

“I wanted to be rich, you know. I’d grown up on a council estate looking at the houses on top of the hill and wanting one.”

“Everyone is born with some unique ability. The sadness is that most of them don’t have the opportunity to find out what that ability is.”

“You don’t make excuses for failure. You don’t accept failure. You will fail on occasions.”

“…It was a fabulous, fabulous experience because I had no idea what I was doing. But it made a shed load of money.”