Shaper: Laurence Isaacson

Show aired on 30th January 2016


Laurence Isaacson CBE FRSA BScEcon

Laurence studied economics at LSE and graduated in  1963. His early career was in marketing and advertising with Unilever before he set up his own advertising agency – The Creative Business – in 1972.

His clients included Nestle, Gillette, General Foods, Shell and Unilver. He sold the agency to Publicis in 1983.

Laurence subsequently opened his first restaurant in 1983 before co founding Groupe Chez Gerard, a group of two dozen restaurants, including Bertorellis, Livebait, Chez Gerard, and Café Fish in 1986. He co-founded Home House, a glamorous private members club in 1990, and from 1990 to 2002 he was a director of the London Tourist Board. In 1998 he was awarded a CBE for his services to the restaurant industry and tourism.

A lifelong supporter of the arts and charities, Laurence was appointed a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company for 10 years and was part of the team that helped raise funds to build the new theatre in Stratford upon Avon. He is currently serving on the board of RSC America. For six years he was Chairman of the Actors Circle which raised funds to train and develop young RSC actors.

For the last ten years he has been on the Board of the World Cancer Research Fund UK and is currently Chairman.

In 2014 he was appointed to the council of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and he is currently co-owner and Chairman of the iconic French restaurant in Soho L’escargot.

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My mother said to me, ‘unless you do some work and get into university you will be sentenced to life imprisonment in a furniture shop in Liverpool’.

I went round every city in America telling them the stories about when I was at school with the Beatles and then at university with Mick Jagger, so I learned very quickly how to use the media.

I thought it was the next best thing to acting, being in marketing.

I was asked to join a guy called David Bernstein who was opening his own advertising agency called The Creative Business. He was creative, I was business and everybody else was limited.

A friend of mine said she’d got permission for a restaurant in a building in Covent Garden and, like an idiot, I said, ‘I’ve always wanted to run a restaurant’ – which was absolutely untrue.

I set up the Covent Garden Festival of Opera and Music Theatre basically because I had a lot of restaurants in Covent Garden so I had a very good mailing list.

It comes down to working hard, making what you do look easy, having a good team behind you, enjoying what you do and doing good, as well as making some money.

It’s never time to put your feet up and relax.

There’s always more that you can achieve – it’s part of the game, but it’s a very enjoyable game.