Shaper: Charles Finch

Show aired on 5th February 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
The sound of Noemi Nuti with Doralice. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining me. It is the place of course you will know this by now I hope, 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. I am very happy to say that my Business Shaper today is none other than Charles Finch. You may not know him right now but you will know him by 10.00 o’clock this morning I can promise you that. He is a creative entrepreneur, he is a man behind movies, behind brands and recently has become one of the key shareholders in a brand I love called Dean and DeLuca – famous on the other side of the Atlantic. Lots coming up from him. I think we are going to have a lot of fun. In addition to hearing from Charles, you will also be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business and on top of all of that of course some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including Ibrahim Maalouf, Cecile McLorin Salvant and this from the one and only Tony Bennett.

The inimitable sound of Tony Bennett with The Good Life – an apt song if ever there was to get us going here with my Business Shaper, Charles Finch. He epitomises the good life or at least you would think so if you read about all the different things that he has been involved in. He is a movie producer, he has created his own business called Finch & Partners back in 2005 doing all sorts of things with luxury brands and entertainment companies, celebrities and philanthropic endeavours too. He created Chucs Dive Mountain Shop and he is even, as I said, involved in Dean and DeLuca. Is there any time to do anything?

Charles Finch
No. I don’t know what I am doing here.

Elliot Moss
How do you look so healthy?

Charles Finch
I love jazz though. I look healthy because I had a steam this morning even if it was only fifteen minutes long and I pretended to do yoga which if anybody actually saw me doing what I was doing in the steam room they wouldn’t have called it yoga.

Elliot Moss
Now just explain to me what it is that you do, what it is that you call yourself and how you manage to move around in so many different worlds because you do?

Charles Finch
I mean I have struggled all my career, my thirty year career, to define what I do well and now at fifty three maybe for the first time I am getting there. I am sort of… I started in the movie business, that’s the first thing to understand and when I was very very young I made my first picture so I was twenty one and directed my first film, which was terrible, called Priceless Beauty but I still like it and so I started in the movie business, directed some movies, produced a lot of movies, wrote a bunch of movies and sort of had a Hollywood career that sort of migrated into representing artists, big, big artists – I mean Cate Blanchett, John Malkovich, Willum Defo, Harvey Keitel – I mean big, big artists and that then led me to managing those artists and then I went from there to brands. I started becoming more and more fascinated and less in dealing with individuals and more in trying to shape brands and to give them ideas and become a sort of alchemist and that led me to then buying brands and developing my own brands and over the last fifteen years I have bought and sold companies, help build companies and I think now I sort of view myself as, as really a sort of entrepreneur is probably a misused word so I try and take ideas, formulate them, create them with the tools that I have and build them round the world into becoming either successful businesses or successful happenings or… so, so I would say I am a producer fundamentally, a creative producer that works in the consumer world.

Elliot Moss
Now way, way back when, you are obviously an intelligent person, you didn’t go to University. I believe that circumstances meant that you couldn’t. Does it matter to you that you didn’t do any of that? I mean do you feel like you continued to learn? Is it better for you that you didn’t do that formal education?

Charles Finch
Well you know it actually… well first of all thank you very much for inviting me to be here because I think, I think, I have got an interesting story for people who didn’t go to University. I was lucky I was at Gordonstoun, I got a scholarship to finish my time at Gordonstoun thanks to the Brabourne Trust and then I got, I won a Morehead scholarship, an exhibition to American University and I didn’t go. I chose not to go and I chose not to go because I think I was in such a hurry, such a rush and also my mother wasn’t… we had come from a very wealthy family that didn’t have any money… it’s a classic European story and she was suffering from different things at the time and I was in such a rush to survive and I didn’t really have the privilege of not keeping her alive and going to school, going to Yale and so life took me on that journey and I think what University gives you I think is that opportunity which is often misspent on youth because they are too busy running around and not listening or not taking advantage of these brilliant people teaching them, the campus facilities and all that. What it gives you is protection to try out your ideas and it gives you relationships that are more mature than your high school relationships and so I think ‘yeah it held me back’. I think it held me back. I am self-educated. I had to learn about movies and about writing and as a writer, I mean everything that I learnt I really had to teach myself you know so I think it held me back in many ways. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone but I do think that we shouldn’t just let our kids go to school without explaining to them the value, the privilege of further education so yeah that’s what I feel.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more insight from my fascinating Business Shaper, Charles Finch. Time for some music, it’s the punchy sound of Dizzy Gillespie with Bang Bang.

Bang Bang from Dizzy Gillespie, it’s really hard not to smile when you hear that isn’t it. Charles Finch is my Business Shaper today and he is, well he’s lots of things, he’s made movies as he said, he gets behind brands, gets behind people, has followed his passion for ideas and as you were hearing earlier, has been a bit of a person who was self-taught and I think it is really important to have heard him talk about that. Charles, you worked for another company. I mean you worked for the William Morris Agency for a number of years and I am often asked this, people think that entrepreneurs are built overnight and yet many people I speak to actually they had an apprenticeship at a really big company and said ‘well that’s pretty good but I can do that better’. Is that true of your experience over there?

Charles Finch
I mean I had two working, I had two jobs in my career – one job was working for Peter Guber and Jon Peters and those two producers, that was in Hollywood, and those two producers at the time were not only running Warner Brothers more or less but we made Batman and we made Witches of Eastwick and we had like eight movies over an eighteen month period, so I had these two iconic bosses that I used to drive around and get coffee for and it was a very old fashioned Hollywood experience, you know, it was a real, you know, LA, you know. I was very very young and so I got to work on story ideas and they found what I… they found my weaknesses and my strengths and so I was very lucky that I had these extraordinarily brilliant kind of mentors and then I went off and wrote a movie and made my first movie and later on in my career after having directed three movies, produced a bunch of movies I, you know, was tired. Actually it is an interesting story if we can digress for a second, so I made a movie called Never Ever that opened at Toronto Film Festival and I directed, wrote, produced the movie, painted the sets, made it ‘fat in caza’ as they say in Italy and the movie starred me, okay, who had never starred in a damn movie because I couldn’t find the right person to be in the movie and Sandrine Bonnaire, who was a big French actress, Jane March. We made this movie, in the movie I fell in love with Sandrine Bonnaire of course and then we made the movie and then went to the Toronto Film Festival and a bunch of other festivals and it was really the culmination of my work in the movie business. And the movie opened and I flew to Toronto, was with Sandrine, it was cold, it was really one of those Toronto overcast days and she was already falling out of love with me – impossible I am sure you can see – but she was falling out of love with me and the movie opened and it was a very important night obviously and it was a failure. It was a big failure and at the end of the movie a lot of grey haired women stayed. There were a lot of grey haired ladies who liked the movie and this is a very bad sign and the Variety reviewed the movie on the front page and it said, you know, ‘Charles Finch’s performance is so flat you could land a jumbo jet on his head’ and it is kind of funny in a way and yet you know what it did – it broke my heart and I didn’t have anyone in my life at that time who could turn round to me and say – my father who had been a very famous actor was dead, I didn’t have a relationship with him – I didn’t have anybody who was able to say to me, ‘Listen man, some movies are good, some movies are bad, you are twenty eight years old what the hell do you care, make another movie’. And so, I got a job and I got a job because my agent at William Morris who was running the agency said to me, ‘Listen man, you know, what are you going to do? You don’t have any money?’.

Elliot Moss
And we are going to hold it right there because I think that is an excellent place to leave it – a cliff hanger.

Charles Finch
A cliff hanger.

Elliot Moss
It’s a cliff hanger for Charles Finch. As he was saying before, the famous Australian actor you may have realised that before, Peter Finch.

Charles Finch
British actor actually.

Elliot Moss
British – is he British definitely?

Charles Finch
Well he was a British, he was really a colonial, you know, he grew up, he was born in England and grew up in Australia so I think British/Ausi actor.

Elliot Moss
There we go, it’s a British/Ausi actor. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom, I hope, from our programme partners at Mischon de Reya for your burgeoning business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday, 9.00am sharp here on Jazz FM I get the privilege or have the privilege of meeting someone who is shaping the world of business and I am very privileged to say that Charles Finch is my Business Shaper today. He is an entrepreneur but he is a lot more than that. He is a producer at heart, he creates things that people like. I think that’s what he has been doing for many many years. As you look back now, that moment when you did get clobbered over the head with the poor review of the film that you starred in and that you wrote and you directed and all those other things, do you think we wouldn’t be sitting here now if someone had said, ‘You know what, that was just a bad film, you can make more films stay with it’?

Charles Finch
I mean I think I would probably still be making movies. I think I would have got it right eventually as a film maker. There was periods in my life where I was doing things which weren’t really what I wanted to do and I think I would have saved that time. I, you know…

Elliot Moss
And does that time, so then jumping to the William Morris experience, you had to get that job, you went and did it. Did you enjoy those almost, it was almost ten years wasn’t it there?

Charles Finch
No, actually it was very funny because people always misunderstand that. I was actually only at William Morris three years.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Charles Finch
But actually possibly one of the last, the last sort of eight months was gardening, you know, they kept me under contract and I couldn’t get out. So you know, I always kind of liked agents because I think some of the most creative people are agents. They are coming up with ways of selling their clients and they often, in Hollywood especially, package things and created things and made things happen so I kind of had a good feeling about agents. So I am an agent liker, not an agent hater and you often meet actors who hate their agents. So I think it was, it was an opportunity for me to get paid really really well, to use a different set of tools which I hadn’t been using, instead of using my own tools to get my own movies made, all of a sudden I was using the tools I had to get other people’s movies made and then I suddenly looked at agency in a way that nobody else really quite frankly apart from maybe Michael Ovitz which is normal now had done. I suddenly said to myself ‘I only need to only sign artists’ and I had big artists, Cate Blanchett, John Malkovich, you know, people I have mentioned before but I said ‘Let’s sign companies’. Let’s sign actual companies and businesses and see how we can bring our entertainment expertise in marketing movies and marketing movie stars in spreading the star dust if you want, into consumer brands. And that was something that agencies didn’t do and they didn’t really understand. It wasn’t a big enough business but actually if you think about it, major brands were funding television programming, major brands were using celebrity, major brands were getting people elected so it suddenly put me into a position that was very powerful within the agency and they asked me to run all of their international businesses which at the time were you know, many offices around the world. I was very very young, thirty and from that came this idea that we would start selling television formats. I brought over a young executive from America and he started selling TV formats into the US market. He got into, very much into reality TV and that is how he made his great fortune and William Morris made their great fortune. What I didn’t like about agency is not being a principal in a deal.

Elliot Moss
And of course we will now find out what the principal in the deal does that you can do – well you are the principal and you can’t do when you are working for someone else. Time for some music, this is The Trolley Song from Cecile McLorin Salvant.

The Trolley Song from Cecile McLorin Salvant and another one that is super evocative of a certain time of the day. Charles you were saying you know, you wanted to be the principal in the deal and by have you been a principal in many, many deals. That innovation that you saw then that was not around, I mean by definition innovation is what is not around. It seems to have kind of either followed you around or it has led your nose to interesting things. Within all these interesting things and people look at the world of film and they look at the world of brands and they think kind of on a level it’s about the way things look and the way they appear. There must be a huge amount of substance, you said, ‘I am an agent lover, not an agent hater’, a huge amount of substance that goes into constructing a deal which is on the surface of it, obvious and easy and even gauche or flashy to some and to others just damn, you know, makes a lot business sense but that substance, how do you combine that in such a superficially superficial world if you like?

Charles Finch
Well I think at the level of business that I was at and am at frankly, I mean last year or the year before I made Jennifer Lawrence’s deal with Dior, you know, I acted for Dior into, you know, into helping her to understand why it would be a significant opportunity for her to become the face of this enormously important global brand and why was it important for Jen? Well she was coming out in these incredible movies but she was still seen as an ajinu and by being the face of Dior it kind of platformed her career with her agents and put her into another… it gave her face, another face if you want. It is a very creative way of positioning an artist, it is a very creative thing for a brand to think and then you have got to think how you are going to execute the stories around that. Give it substance. So I found that people at that level of business which is what I have been focussed on for many years, Cate Blanchett or if it’s on a people business, Cate Blanchett or Jen Laurence or those sort of people; they are pretty down to earth because they understand that their… Scarlett Johansson… they understand that their core talent has to be protected which is when they work in a movie or on stage but these other things that they do are also important business facets for them. So I think it’s, in my world it’s not that superficial. What I think is superficial is celebrity, that is a totally different thing.

Elliot Moss
How do you keep your feet on the ground then because you are surrounded by celebrity. You are surrounded by big numbers. These are big companies and these are big artists and you are negotiating, creating, protecting as you say the integrity of those people. What keeps you on the level? You seem on the level but this is a hard act isn’t it?

Charles Finch
I mean, I mean, no I mean I was born into this, there is no great mystery to me. I am very lucky that I didn’t have to assume. I think what agents sometimes do is assume the power of their clients and then they become ****holes and that happens a lot.

Elliot Moss
You can’t say that word. So find another word.

Charles Finch
They behave like ****.

Elliot Moss
You can’t…

Charles Finch
They can beep it, I am not **** changing it.

Elliot Moss
Fine we can beep it.

Charles Finch
You are Jazz FM.

Elliot Moss
Fine we’ll beep it. Right leave that there. Good. More beeps coming up from my Business Shaper, it will be my final chat with Charles. We want to keep him for longer and we want more beeps but we can’t, we haven’t got the time. Plus we will be playing a track with Ibrahim Maalouf, that’s after the latest traffic and travel.

The powerful sound of Ibrahim Maalouf with one of my favourites of the last twelve months, Essentielles. Charles, you have, you continue to do interesting things, you set up a business called the Chucs Dive & Mountain Shop, it’s a brand but it’s, I suppose it’s a thing around lifestyle and what people want to buy over there. This Dean and DeLuca business as well, something that I spotted probably five years ago I think in the States and I was like ‘these beautiful white mugs with lovely crisp Dean and DeLuca big black letter font over there, the lovely coffee, the sense of what they are about’ you bought in to that. What’s made you buy into Dean and DeLuca at this point?

Charles Finch
Well can I just go back for one second, so Chucs Dive and Mountain, Chucs is a nickname of mine and my grandfather George Ingle Finch invented the down filled jacket and climbed Everest in 1922 on the second Mallory expedition. My father when he was living in Jamaica, I grew up in Jamaica, he found a pair of Ian Fleming’s shorts, they were very dear friends and he used to make his own shorts, swim shorts. That’s how Chuc started.

Elliot Moss
How is it doing now?

Charles Finch
It’s good. We’ve got a store and a restaurant on Dover Street which is great, even Adrian Gill likes it and we are just opening another one in Notting Hill. So that’s Chucs.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Charles Finch
And I started it six years.

Elliot Moss
That would be enough for some people, you see they would just have a Chucs but you’ve just got Chucs and it’s just over there. Good, next one.

Charles Finch
So Dean and DeLuca essentially my partner in Asia who is a brilliant young Asian business tycoon was working on building the tallest building in Bangkok which is called the Mahanakhon Tower and he put into the Mahanakhon Tower, Dean and DeLuca and when we became full business partners I said to him ‘We have got to buy this damn thing’ and it just so happened that the brand after twenty years of ownership or stewardship could be bought. We bought it and so the idea is to bring back some of the ingredients of Giorgio De Luca and his partners, Jeffrey Dean who started the brand and to build it. So we are building seven other Dean and DeLuca’s in North America at the moment and we will probably build another thirty over the next four years, three years and Dean and DeLuca is about… for those of you who have never been to Dean and DeLuca, it’s in New York City, it’s also in Napa, it will be in Marin and it will be in Los Angeles. It’s going to be in Malibu at the end of this year and we are in Tokyo, we’re in Saul and we are in the Middle East. Dean and DeLuca is the sort of curation of these amazing, amazing food products from around the world, the best in category always ,as well as having great food that you can come and eat either instore or you can take with you so it was the first sort of curated delicatessen at the highest point. I mean Giorgio De Luca bought Virgin olive oil to New York City thirty five years ago.

Elliot Moss
The way you are talking about it and the expansion plans and everything we have spoken about since we started talking, you have this capacity it seems for enthusiasm and for real knowledge. I mean you jumped just then into Dean and DeLuca. Some people get very stressed when there is lots on their plate. It looks like to me that you are less stressed the more there is going on?

Charles Finch
I mean I…

Elliot Moss
Is that true?

Charles Finch
…I work in silo, you know, I work in silo so I see Dean and DeLuca as you know, now probably two thirds at the moment of my life and I have a very good team around me and I have an incredible partner whose the principal of the company, who’s young and dynamic and I can give him advice where he requires it but he is inspirational and his name is Ying Saraboji and he is an inspirational guy and then I see my Finch & Partner’s team and Finch & Partners is in London, Paris, Bangkok, Hong Kong – they are very sophisticated people and they have long-term partnerships with Chanel and Dior and the most important brands in the world, Ja Ja La Cuche and so it is a very small team and they are very focussed and it is very project led so I can deal with these things in silos. At the moment I am executive producing two movies, one is Nick Broomfield’s movie about Witney Houston which is for Showtime, that’s the sixteenth film we’ve worked on together and the other is a movie about Cecil Beaton that Lisa Ryland is doing but that’s me helping them in whatever way I can but not practically being on the set.

Elliot Moss
Listen it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, I am holding a beautiful book which is another thing you have created Charles, The Night Before Bafta, produced in association with the publishers Assouline, is that right?

Charles Finch
Yep, yep.

Elliot Moss
Say that properly. It’s really beautiful, it’s another thing just to add to the list. It’s been fantastic talking to you. Before I let you go though because you can’t away that easily, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Charles Finch
So Joe Cocker, Unchain My Heart… Unchain my heart… I mean what can you, I mean do I need to explain that really.

Elliot Moss
No.

Charles Finch
I mean you know…

Elliot Moss
Here it is, Charles thank you so much.

Charles Finch
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
That was Unchain My Heart from Joe Cocker, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Charles Finch. A proper renaissance man, someone who has worked in the movies, someone who has worked with brands, someone who sets up businesses and someone who lives in all different parts of the world at the same time. A person who has the courage of his convictions. He has had to convince stars and brands alike to do things that others probably wouldn’t have been able to convince them to do and really honest. At the heart of it, whatever world he has been playing in I think he has been someone who has been a very straight forward person to deal with and do business with. Fantastic stuff. Join me again, same time, same place, that’s 9.00am, here on Jazz FM next Saturday for another edition of Jazz Shapers. In the meantime though stay with us, coming up next, it’s Nigel Williams.

Charles Finch is a creative marketing and brand entrepreneur. A “Brand Alchemist” with an impressive track record, Charles uses his extensive background in the entertainment sector as the basis for the marketing and development of brands. He specialises in combining a boutique approach with brand development on a global scale, seamlessly blending his personal interests and passions with those of his business. He holds a number of interests in a variety of silos that can be broken down into three distinct categories: Branding, Brand Development and Investment, and Movies.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I have struggled all my career, my thirty year career, to define what I do well and now, at fifty three, maybe for the first time I am getting there.”

“I started in the movie business, directed some movies, produced a lot of movies, wrote a bunch of movies and sort of had a Hollywood career…”

“Over the last fifteen years, I have bought and sold companies, helped build companies and I think now I sort of view myself as a sort of entrepreneur…”

“…everything that I learnt, I really had to teach myself.”

“I do think that we shouldn’t just let our kids go to school without explaining to them the value, the privilege, of further education.”

“I had these two iconic bosses that I used to drive around and get coffee for…”

“I am an agent liker, not an agent hater, and you often meet actors who hate their agents.”

“Last year, or the year before, I made Jennifer Lawrence’s deal with Dior…”

“My father, when he was living in Jamaica, found a pair of Ian Fleming’s shorts…”