Me And My Partner
MICHAEL HESELTINE AND SIMON TINDALL
Wednesday 26 May 1999
MICHAEL HESELTINE: I had been president of the union at Oxford and Clive Labovitch owned and edited the weekly university newspaper. I rented him a shed in the grounds of the union. In 1957 Clive phoned me and said he had bought a small publishing business and would I discuss it with him.
He had acquired a publication called Oxford University What's What, a freshman's guide to cinemas, restaurants and clubs. It had a directory of opportunities for graduates, with 40 pages of display adverts from Britain's leading companies. I said: "Look, this is wrong. It's sold to freshmen. You should give it away to every last-year undergraduate in the country." He said: "That's a good idea - come and join me".
Two years later, I remember Clive telling me of Simon's imminent arrival: I was on National Service. Simon was a clean-cut public school boy, straight down to the line. He was young - about 21 - and we referred to him as "the boy".
Our first big step was the acquisition of a quarterly magazine called Man About Town. We did a spectacular property deal which gave us the money to buy it. It was a trade magazine for the bespoke trade. It was a financial disaster although its existence proved the launching pad of the Haymarket publishing group. We turned it into a monthly called Town. The name Haymarket came from an amalgamation of Hazell Watson and Viney - they bought the firm which printed Town - and Cornmarket, which then became part of the British Printing Corporation (BPC).
Our phone sales techniques were revolutionary at the time. Space-selling of the 1950s was about going out and making four to five visits per day. We realised if you were to telephone all day, you could make about 30 contacts, and if you got 10 per cent, you had three customers. If you got 25 per cent of four or five, you'd have one.
There were other people, apart from myself and Simon. Lindsay Masters was to prove one of the most creative publishers of his generation. Then there were Tom Wolsey, our creative art director and Dennis Curtis, our production editor. I remember Julian Critchley being photographed by David Bailey: I was organising the fashion shots. We sent the photographer Don McCullin off to war for the first time. He left his wife and small baby in the East End and went off to Vietnam.
There was a very close personal relationship between Lindsay, Simon and myself as the 1960s developed. We were acquiring publications and relaunching publications. We were all under huge pressure. There was day-by-day, hour-by-hour contact. In 1967, BPC invited Haymarket to take over all their magazine publishing divisions. It was a terrifically exciting time and the company doubled in size overnight. I was under increasing political pressure and in 1969 Lindsay became managing director, and I remained chairman. When I became a minister in 1970 Lindsay became chairman and Simon was managing director. My shares were put in trust and my relationship with the company ended. A lot of my time was spent in the Commons. I saw the management accounts and had lunch with Lindsay once every four months, just to keep in touch.
In 1974, I came back as a consultant for five years. I was a consultant again from 1986 to 1990, when Lindsay was chairman and Simon was managing director. When Lindsay wanted to retire last year, he became a non-executive director and I became chairman. Simon runs the business and has an encyclopedic knowledge of what people are actually thinking, despite what they are saying.
In my life, I have had three partnerships. My relationship with Lindsay and Simon has been a different ballpark altogether. The success from that has no precedent.
SIMON TINDALL: I had a place at Cambridge to read English, but I turned it down because I did National Service. Being commissioned was the best manage- ment training you could have. I had a job offer from a managing director who wanted me to be his PA, and an offer from Clive, Michael's business partner, to sell advertising space. I wanted the first job, but I was persuaded otherwise.
Clive had started Cornmarket, and Michael joined him. They were old friends. The first thing I remember about Michael was this incredible haircut. The National Service haircut was cut up to the line of your beret, one inch from your eyebrow. He had a small topknot, a mophead. He whizzed in and out of the office: there were only seven of us, on the corner of Lower James Street and Brewer Street.
Michael was a bit different. Clive, who died about four years ago, was gentle and academic, a nice man. Michael's nice but he's very direct, and he hasn't changed. He made the decisions, and made money in property, Clive ran the publications. Lindsay was Chelsea man, with dark glasses, weird shirts and tight trousers. I was fantastically impressed.
I had a 9.30am to 5.30pm job, selling space over the phone. Lindsay and I were very close colleagues. We would hit the phones and ring up everybody in British industry. We were non-stop except for one hour for lunch - we were bloody determined. I would make at least 15 successful calls each day.
I remember doing the Christmas feature for our first issue of Town. Michael and I went plundering shops and saying: "Please can we take these things to photograph?". They did get it all back. We mixed what we liked the look of, and what was going to be commercial. There were only one or two people producing fashionable clothes for men: Jaeger was one, all at the time of Carnaby Street, in 1960.
When Michael and Clive went their own ways in 1965, Lindsay and I were torn between loyalty to Clive, who had taken both of us on, and Michael, with whom we had been working. Michael was so much more of an entrepreneur. It was the right thing. Michael was a businessman, Lindsay and I were salesmen, though Lindsay became a really good product man, with a vision of the future of trade publishing. Michael was the dealmaker, and I came behind and tried to make money out of the sales.
Michael spent a lot of time in the Commons when in Opposition. He knew what was going on in the company, although we never talked business in any detail. But once he was a minister, things changed. I was having a particular problem and wanted to find the right person to talk to, and I asked Michael whom I should see. He said: "I am sorry, I can't tell you. You mustn't talk to me about it, because if I met the individual, I want to be able to look them in the eyes and say `I have no idea what you are talking about'." Michael's incredibly correct about it. That was our relationship from 1970. Later on, I would occasionally see him at the House of Commons.
I find it astonishing that Michael was away all those years, but that the business relationship which started 40 years ago is still as strong.After six months, Michael and I have resumed this sort of easy partnership. We don't have long meetings - we're too old for that. Michael is very, very quick on any point. I'll tell him if I don't like it and he'll try to persuade me. If it's a good idea, I will pursue it with enthusiasm.
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