Obituary: Bob Herbert

THERE ARE untold riches to be made in artist management - provided your act signs a cast-iron contract. The accountant-turned- band manager Bob Herbert missed out when the pop groups Bros and the Spice Girls opted for the services of other impresarios just as they were about to hit the big time. However, Herbert persevered and put together the boy band Five, which has recently created a sensation among teenage girls.

Born in 1942, Herbert qualified as an accountant and first got involved in the music industry in 1985. He took a liking to Matt and Luke Goss, twin friends of his son Chris when they were pupils together at Collingwood School in Camberley, Surrey. Although the twins were only 15, they had formed their own pop group called Gloss with the bassist Craig Logan. Realising the blond looks of Matt and Luke could be exploited to market a group that could be the Eighties' answer to the Bay City Rollers, Herbert offered Gloss advice and provided rehearsal space for them in his summer house. He introduced them to songwriters, financed their early demo tapes and plotted their route to success.

However, they couldn't sign a legally binding management contract until they were 18. When that time came, the pop Svengali Tom Watkins moved in, took over their management and signed them to Columbia Records. Renamed Bros, the trio scored hits in 1988 with "When Will I Be Famous" and "I Owe You Nothing", but were soon out of favour with the fickle teenage market and nearly out of money.

Undeterred, Herbert joined in a management venture with his son Chris and the entrepreneur Chic Murphy to launch a boy band to rival Take That, who had taken the British charts by storm in 1993. However, Chris had a better idea: why not create a girl group reflecting the cultural diversity of Britain? They began handing out flyers around UK cities before eventually placing an ad in the show-business trade journal The Stage. The aim was to attract female performers who were "18-23 with the ability to sing/dance, streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated".

By mid-1994, the Herberts and Murphy had auditioned 600 applicants, and whittled the line-up down to Melanie Brown (who became Scary Spice) from Leeds, Geri Halliwell (Ginger) from Watford, Melanie Chisholm (Sporty) from Liverpool, Victoria Adams (Posh) from the Home Counties and Michelle Stephenson, quickly replaced by Emma Bunton (Baby) from London.

Originally called Touch but subsequently renamed the Spice Girls after an early song called "Sugar and Spice", the five lodged together, took singing lessons, rehearsed dance routines and honed the "girl power" attitude that would eventually help them take control of their own careers.

Unfortunately for Bob and Chris Herbert, a showcase in December 1994 attracted not only the interest of Virgin Records but also the attention of a rival manager, Simon Fuller. Fuller ousted the Herberts and offered them a five-figure settlement. Signed to Virgin for a pounds 500,000 advance and launched in the autumn of 1995, the Spice Girls broke all records, becoming the most successful female pop group of all time, with combined sales of their two albums reaching the 35 million mark.

In 1997, the Herberts reverted to their original boy-band masterplan. "We decided to put an ad in The Stage newspaper, as we had done when we were auditioning for the Spice Girls," recalled Bob Herbert in Five: The Official Book (1998). "Up until then, no-one knew that we'd put the Spice Girls together and suddenly, it hit the press: the media went crazy for the auditions. The headlines read: `Spice Boys Wanted, Boy Power!' We were being talked about on every TV and radio station. Thousands of lads turned up. It was madness."

The pressure was on because they had already secured a deal for the potential project with RCA Records. "We knew what we were looking for," said Herbert. "But there was no guarantee that we were going to find it. It was more a case of the right guys finding us. And we got lucky. Very lucky."

The Herberts switched from the planned foursome to a five-piece comprising Sean Conlon, Scott Robinson, Richard Neville, Richard "Abs" Green and Jason "J" Brown. Called Five, the boy band shared a house and were launched in a blaze of publicity at the Smash Hits Poll Winners' Party in November 1997, appearing on 23 UK magazine covers in the space of a year. They have since scored six Top Ten singles in the UK and made inroads into the American charts. Bob Herbert also negotiated a sponsorship deal with Pepsi which saw Five follow in the footsteps of Boyzone and the Spice Girls.

Pierre Perrone

Robert Herbert, band manager and accountant; born Brentford, Essex 4 February 1942; married (one son, one daughter); died Windsor, Berkshire 9 August 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?