Media: Media magnate wannabes

James Brown, the hell-raising former editor of Loaded and GQ, is the latest in a line of successful journalists to set up their own publishing companies. In his case, the mind boggles. By Naomi Marks

James Brown has risen from the ashes. Again. This time, though, the individualistic, iconoclastic, hell-raising former editor of Loaded who went on to prove too hot for the poshest publishing house in town, is following a well-trodden path.

As other equally illustrious, if not so notorious, figures from the world of journalism have done before him, he is setting out on the road of mini media magnatedom, becoming publishing director of his own magazine house, gloriously named IFG (for I Feel Good).

Brown first came to prominence as the journalist who, carving Loaded in his own self-destructive image, proved there was indeed a magazine market to be tapped in the beer, tits and trouble-making antics of a new breed of British lads. He was given unprecedented free rein at publisher IPC, took the title to unchartered peaks and was lauded by the industry, only to find himself three years down the line staring upwards at the circulation figures of a brighter young imitator. He had been out-Loaded by Emap's FHM.

Flagging from the frenetic lifestyle that goes with the Loaded territory, Brown last year was offered a graceful way out when Nicholas Coleridge, managing director of Conde Nast, offered him the editorship of GQ.

Brown underwent the strangest of transmogrifications. He married his girlfriend, said he was giving up the drink and drugs and was photographed in Savile Row suits looking every inch the smart, clean-living Nineties dude.

But those heads which wagged disapprovingly at Coleridge's brave choice of GQ editor had a point. Though Brown did manage to halt the decline of the glossy monthly, his previous incarnation proved harder to throw off. A certain laddism crept into GQ and finally Coleridge cracked. Apparently appalled at the naming of the Nazis, and Field Marshal Rommel in particular, in an article listing the "sharpest men in the 20th century", he gave Brown his marching orders in February.

So now it seems, after a period of reflection, Brown has decided he will march to his own tune, and his own tune only. He has rented offices in the media village of Clerkenwell, bought cast-off furniture from troubled trendy publisher Wagadon and teamed up with youth-media companies Harry Monk and Cunning Stunts for his new venture.

Leeds Leeds Leeds, the Leeds United title he launched and is passionate about, is expected to kick start IFG. If all goes to plan, other consumer titles, possibly a men's one among them, will follow.

In taking this route, Brown joins the roll-call of top, malcontent journalists deciding to go it alone. No longer happy just to talk of only the titles they preside over as their babies, more and more of the industry's highest profiles want to extend their nurturing talents to entire companies. Not renowned for their back-seat egos or ambition deficits, they are building those companies themselves.

Before Brown, Eve Pollard, former editor of the Sunday Mirror and The Express on Sunday was the latest to succumb. Having watched the successful launch last year of Cabal Communications by former Good Housekeeping and Ideal Home editor Sally O'Sullivan, and taking heed of Rupert Murdoch's exhortations that great entrepreneurs come from all areas of the media business, last autumn she set out to gain finance for her own publishing project - armed with just the editor's essential quota of "ideas" and some "funny dummies", knocked up at home and stuck together with Sellotape, to back them up.

Now Pollard's venture, Parkhill Publications, is preparing to move into central London offices and is busy recruiting journalists as it gets set to launch titles into "under-exploited consumer markets".

Pollard, like Brown, might not, at first glance, seem obvious raw material for a hard-headed publisher. She started her career on women's magazines at a time when, as she puts it, "editors knew nothing about budgets and finance, they floated through on a financial cloud".

Neither does her more recent work - co-writing steamy blockbuster novels with friends and freelancing as agony aunt to the Sunday Mirror - constitute any more classical training than Brown's hell-raising for a foray into media business.

But, as well as gaining a reputation for glam habits such as long-distance editing as a national newspaper supremo in the lean late Eighties and early Nineties, Pollard learned some serious financial lessons to complement her editorial acumen.

Parkhill Publications plans its first launches, in the general features and leisure areas, early next year.

Brown, Pollard and O'Sullivan may be the latest to set out on their own, but the notion that journalists are better placed than the traditional advertising-rooted management for spotting new market niches to be plumbed is not a new one. Chris Anderson did it when he spotted the huge potential for computer magazines 14 years ago. He set up Future Publishing with a pounds 15,000 bank loan and nine years later sold it for pounds 52m.

Former journalist at The Mirror and The Spectator Michael Wyn Jones co- founded New Crane Publishing to launch the incredibly successful and much- aped Sainsbury's The Magazine in 1993.Former editor of The Sun Kelvin MacKenzie is, of course, now transforming Talk Radio.

But however smart the journalist, the road to business success is not an easy one. Journalist Mark Allen, who set up Mark Allen Publishing in 1985 with two titles and today oversees 18, as well as related conference and travel businesses, cautions Pollard, Brown et al that there is no point in being starry-eyed about taking this route. "The best editors who are also publishers do have a creative spark but they also have their feet on the ground. A lot don't realise how hard it is to make money in publishing," he says.

And competition in the magazine world is fierce. O'Sullivan's Cabal has already suffered from the might of IPC - which scuppered one planned big Cabal launch, Crime Weekly, after rushing out its own one-shot into this largely untapped area.

Bill Borrows, editor-at-large on Loaded and a writer closely associated with Brown, points to Brown's Yorkshire origins. As well as having the editor's knack of an all-consuming passion for his titles, he explains: "He's good with the pennies."

O'Sullivan and Pollard both believe that small, flexible publishing houses with creative, experienced nous at the top can spell success. Both also believe they can do things differently, as well as better.

While the former's innovations have included a flat management structure and a quirky free-chocolate-on-Wednesday policy, the latter's plan is to knock down the barriers that keep editorial and advertising departments safely at spitting distance.

No doubt Brown will be infusing his new company with an innovatory ambience, marking it out from the mainstream. Only in this case, the mind boggles as to what that will involve.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk