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The Independent Online
It is well known and widely accepted that many young people train as chartered accountants because they see it as a good business training that will take up a few years while they decide what to do. But few can have used the chartered accountancy qualification as a springboard in quite the same way as Barry Hearn, the snooker and boxing promoter, football club chairman and professional "cheeky chappie".

As he told a packed audience at the latest Independent/Robert Half Business Interview, the career was chosen for him at the age of 13 by his mother, who had been told by somebody for whom she cleaned house that he had "never seen a poor accountant". The future sports impresario showed his aptitude by qualifying with a small firm and building up a private client list while holding down a position with a long-established firm, then known as Thomson McLintock.

The link with snooker came when, as finance director of Kensal House Investments, he moved into snooker halls after none-too-successful forays into fashion and property. His life was changed by the decision to televise the sport, and the arrival of Steve Davis, who was to revolutionise the sport and form the core of Mr Hearn's stable of players.

Last year's reported turnover of pounds 12m and profit of pounds 1m is a significantly better return than he could have expected had he pursued his original plan of becoming a sole practitioner.

But for all the ribald fun he has at his profession's expense - "public opinion of accountants is nearly always totally correct" - signs of his early training are apparent. For instance, he claims to have always taken a long-term view with his sporting arrangements and to be cautious when arranging the deals.

That said, there can't be many members of his institute who admit to "flash periods" lasting several decades and claim that their first business venture was selling the contents of girlie magazines to schoolmates.

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