Jim Armitage: Media mogul swears by self education

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The Independent Online

Outlook Richard Desmond, the pornographer-turned media mogul, is always entertaining. And so he proved yesterday at the Royal Television Society.

His message – complete with trademark swear words – was that modern-day executives are scared of taking risks and too highly educated. "If I had gone to one of these great universities, I wonder if I would be speaking here today?" he asked.

His view was that the structured teaching in our unis stifles original thinking in our companies.

He's not alone among entrepreneurs who've not been through the university sausage machine: Sir Richard Branson left Stowe public school at 16, Mike Ashley quit his local secondary school at the same age, as did Sir Alan Sugar.

But there's a big difference in skills needed to go in and run a big corporate than to launch and create one's own business. The mercurial Mr Desmond is famed for once ordering a female executive to go and stand in a cupboard as punishment for being late for a meeting. And for goose-stepping around the boardroom in front of executives from The Telegraph while their paper was being bid for by Germany's Axel Springer.

The school of life has taught Mr Desmond to be an innovative, risk-loving swashbuckler. But he would be out of place at BP or AstraZeneca.