When I've said there will never be an entertainment show as successful as House Party, it was an observation on the breadth of things that came out of the show. No television programme has created theme parks, or a character, like Mr Blobby.
Unique is a collection of 20 companies specialising in different aspects of the entertainment industry, from merchandising and licensing, to media management and event organisation. Although Paul didn't become a partner in Unique until 1995, he'd been involved in my business deals for 10 years. He used to be a partner in a law practice, and gradually, over the years, he would tie the knots and dot the i's on my BBC deals. Some lawyers put hidden clauses in contracts in the hope that no one will notice, but Paul is not that sort of person. That was one of the first things I liked about him.
He managed to put all the different companies into some sort of shape and stopped me having a nervous breakdown. He is now chief executive and hates anyone calling him a lawyer. The NSPCC have grown quite rich because every time someone calls him a lawyer they have to put a pounds 1 in a Mr Blobby charity box we keep in the office. It gets under his skin a bit because lawyers are seen as parasites. He can still roll out wonderful phrases like, "Well, this is what you should do, but of course in litigation nothing is 100 per cent".
The only downside of him becoming a partner is that our insurers won't let us fly in the helicopter at the same time any more. I once let him have a go at flying, but he was really crap. In fact he's the world's worst driver as well. I borrowed his car last week and I have seen less rubbish in our dustbin. It was like a bachelor pad, full of old banana skins and terrible smells.
I'm the one who comes up with the ideas. Ninety-nine per cent of them are crap, but it's Paul's role to spot the 1 per cent that are good. It was a nightmare before he joined because all my ideas were being implemented. There was no one saying, "Do we really want a company doing that?" He's a father figure. He'll say, "Fine. Let's just finish off what we decided to do last week".
Although our latest venture, the Video Meetings Company (VMC) started from scratch, it did come out of a personal need. I'd moved to Devon and wasn't seeing much of my family, even with the luxury of a helicopter. The moment I looked into buying video link-up equipment, I realised it was not only very poor quality, but ludicrously expensive. A company quoted me pounds 35,000 for each end. I thought, I haven't got a pounds 70,000 problem here and set about launching VMC. It's cost millions to set up which has frightened the pants off me.
I certainly couldn't have done it without Paul. I wouldn't have known where to start. I always say that he's never had a decent idea, but it's his spin on all the other ideas that have been invaluable. He's structured VMC in such a way that it's already a highly desirable commodity. Paul is very good at making people feel happy and not ordered around. A couple of years ago, we entered a two-car team for the Le Mans 24-hour race with the intention of making some programmes for the BBC. I spent the whole weekend re-fuelling the car and fretting about qualifying; Paul spent it partying. He would appear in the pits every so often with a beer in his hand saying, "Howzit going, Noel?" It was a good flip-flop on the two roles. I'm sure some people think I flounce around, throwing the odd show business moody, while Paul sits there saying, "Oh my word". It's not like that at all.
At the risk of sounding twee, I know that if the blades dropped off my helicopter, Paul's heart would be in the right place. I didn't ask him to be godfather to my youngest daughter as a golden handcuffs thing. I've known him too long for that. He knows that Unique is important to the Edmonds' family and that if anything happened to me, he will make sure it is there to provide for my wife Helen and the four girls. I can't imagine a more genuine, or a more industrious person. I trust him implicitly and can honestly say that if Paul Pascoe ever shafted me I'd give up completely on human nature.
PAUL PASCOE: "It took Noel a couple of years to persuade me to leave my law practice. Once he'd made it clear I would be a shareholder, I became interested. When we finally got to discuss the offer seriously, Noel was sitting in a cramped BBC dressing room, doing a Bruce Willis impression from the film, Die Hard. He was wearing a string vest, torn trousers and covered in fake mud. Neither of us had eaten lunch so we ended up with the only BBC sandwiches available, which were liver sausage and onion on white bread. It was a memorable afternoon, to say the least. We both recognised, very early on, that Noel's fame is a double-edged sword. It's great for opening doors, but it puts everything under the spotlight, which can be negative. A lot of the Unique companies started with one person and a telephone, so our investment was minimal. When it came to VMC, it meant writing out huge cheques at the start.
It was a big change for Noel and me because we had to gather an immense amount of knowledge and make a substantial investment. One of the most telling moments was about four months go when someone offered us just shy of pounds 10m to take over VMC. We just looked at each other and said, "Let's keep the nerve".
Noel is extremely creative, but he also has a pretty good understanding of business, which means we never have communication problems. You can have the best idea in the world and still go bust trying to get people take it up. The things he hates are negativity and unreliability. If you say you're going to do something, then he expects you to do it.
People often ask me whether Noel just plays at business, or whether he's committed. He's seriously committed and makes himself available. Every member of staff has his home phone number and they are told, on the day they join, that they can always speak to him.
He's extraordinary to work with because he's got such a fountain of ideas. Some are absolutely crackers, like the idea to open Mr Blobby restaurants, but others, like the Piper International Design Group (PIDG) and VMC are brilliant. PIDG grew out of Unique Technics, which was set up to explore the brilliant technology used in broadcasting. It's a phenomenally successful story with major global clients.
We pull each other in different ways. I'm a bit too focused and he's sometimes a bit too broad, yet we've managed to reach a common ground. He's got a larger ego, but you have to have a larger-than-life ego to work in front of the camera. I don't think he'd have stayed at the top with the BBC for 30 years if he'd behaved like a prima donna. It was Noel who wanted to end the House Party series and plan for its replacement, but the BBC wouldn't listen and commissioned it for another two years. Two months later they axed the show.
With the right project and with the right team, Noel would be back on the telly like a shot. He'd probably say I'm wrong about that because he has business interests that stimulate and challenge him much more. He certainly doesn't need it for the ego boost. He's a straightforward person and much more punctual than me. He's also demanding and sometimes very blunt. After all, he is a communicator so sometimes you have to take away the airy diplomacy to get the message across.
We're very different people. I'm always joking that he wants to own everything. He wanted to buy a plane, which I thought was financial lunacy. It's the same with him buying a house in the Mediterranean. It's better to charter planes and lease houses - that way someone else gets the headaches. We'll never agree on that but when it comes to the fundamentals of running the business we rarely disagree.Reuse content