How Vince Power made a mean £13m out of music

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The Independent Culture

He started out with a small country and western venue in a grubby part of north-west London. Now, more than 20 years later, the multimillionaire Vince Power is to part company with the Mean Fiddler group, the business he transformed into a major player in music promotion.

He started out with a small country and western venue in a grubby part of north-west London. Now, more than 20 years later, the multimillionaire Vince Power is to part company with the Mean Fiddler group, the business he transformed into a major player in music promotion.

Power, a former demolition man born in poverty in Waterford, Ireland, is expected to pocket a further £13m from the sale of his remaining 35 per cent stake to two other big names in concert promotion, the American-based Clear Channel Entertainment, and MCD Productions, an Irish company.

Mean Fiddler, now valued at about £37m and employing 300 people, owns a series of music venues around London including the Astoria, the Garage, the Forum and the Jazz Café, as well as the Mean Fiddler venue itself in central London. It also runs the Leeds and Reading festivals and has a major stake in the Glastonbury festival.

The deal, which Power is recommending to the company's shareholders, is expected to be cleared in a few weeks, after which he is expected to sever all contacts with the company.

A spokesman for The Hamsard Group, the investment company set up by Clear Channel and MCD, said that although Power would go, it would be "business as usual" and that no major changes were planned. "Mean Fiddler will continue to pursue a strategy of delivering world-class event promotion and management both through its festivals and music businesses in the UK," he added.

Both sides stressed that the deal was entirely amicable and followed talks between Power and Dennis Desmond, the owner of MCD, which owns the Brixton Academy and who is also a big name in Irish music promotion; he already owns 24 per cent of Mean Fiddler. The two were once rivals who clashed over promoting Irish festivals.

The company is still based in Harlesden, north-west London, where Power set up the original Mean Fiddler club in a disused bar in the early 1980s, modelled on the kind of relaxed honky tonk bars he had visited in Nashville, America.

Power, 57, told The Independent he had decided to sell because "it's time to cash in my roulette chips". He added: "I think I'm going to have a look around and then go back to the roulette table. The thought of retiring horrifies me.''

Power confirmed that he was planning to stay in the music promotion business with venues in Europe and was looking to open a Jazz Café in Paris, although the original, in Camden, north London, remains part of the Mean Fiddler group.

He acknowledged a sense of regret at leaving the Mean Fiddler company: "I built it up from nothing in 23 years and we have had some great times, great people and great music, but the company is staying here, the only thing that's moving is myself.'' Power is also writing the story of his life, in conjunction with the journalist James Brown, which will describe his poverty-stricken upbringing as one of 11 children in rural Ireland through to becoming a music business magnate.

He moved to England as a teenager and had a string of jobs. After becoming involved in the demolition business, he went into selling furniture and eventually set up a chain of furniture shops, which provided the funding for his venture into music promotion.

Set up because Power was a country and western music fan, the Mean Fiddler eventually transcended genres and became a venue for many different performers, although a strong Irish element remained, with acts such as the Pogues and Van Morrison appearing there.

Power expanded into other venues and started running festivals, such as the Fleadh in London and the Reading festival.

In 2001, the Mean Fiddler was called in by the Glastonbury founder, Michael Eavis, to help with administration and security after the chaotic 2000 event. It now owns 40 per cent and has been credited with giving the festival organisational stability.

Famously averse to meetings and many of the attributes of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Power is said to prefer to do business by handshakes and by keeping matters informal, relying on his assistants to deal with details. He has eight children from his relationships with three women, and seven grandchildren.

Clear Channel is the world's largest concert promoter with extensive interests in the United Kingdom, where it owns or operates 28 venues, including the Grand Opera House, York, and the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.

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