Media families; 9. The Hytners

Benet Hytner (a distinguished QC) and Joyce (corporate affairs director for the Royal Court theatre) begat Nicholas (theatre and film director), Richard (chief executive, The Henley Centre for Forecasting and former advertising agency chief) and Jim (marketing director for Sky television)

This is a happy tale of three brothers doing well. No tragedy, perhaps just one rude shock. So sit back and enjoy it.

The Hytners come from a cultured, affable and relaxed upbringing in Manchester. They all attended Manchester Grammar School. Nicholas, the oldest, had a season ticket to the Halle when he was nine and was a junior denizen of the Library Theatre and a dedicated follower of the D'Oyly Carte. His two younger brothers, although also creative, preferred Manchester United.

One of Richard's classmates recollects a teenage party at the boys' family home. "I wandered upstairs ... in one of the rooms, Nick was studying and listening to opera - very loudly. Which was not, to say the least, a particularly fashionable thing to do."

Nicholas is described by a normally sceptical observer as having been nothing less than "a colossus" at Manchester Grammar - a superstar. At Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he directed student dramas, and forged strong links with Steven Pimlott and Jeremy Sams. After a stint at Kent Opera, he made his mark as associate director of the Manchester Royal Exchange.

Box office success with Miss Saigon meant he could write his own ticket. Opera, musicals, then The Madness of King George on stage and screen which gave him entree to Hollywood. His film of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, opened in the UK to mixed reviews earlier this year.

Now 40, he splits his time between homes in London and New York (friends observe he has developed an American accent) and has the luxury of cherry- picking projects. Hytner is hot, but then he always has been.

Small wonder, then, if younger brother Richard, 38, looked for fame elsewhere.

"He wanted to stand out, but by doing something different," one friend observes. So, although he followed his brother to Cambridge, where he studied law at St John's, he went straight into advertising. As a graduate trainee in account management at the London agency Benton & Bowles, he was quick to make his mark: management noted his "intellectual rigour".

Richard subsequently switched agencies, joining Young & Rubicam and then Still Price Court Twivy d'Souza where he moved rapidly up the ranks: "A prodigy, even then".

When a merger took him to Lintas Worldwide, the world's eighth largest advertising network, Richard was appointed managing director. He was just 30, although he looked much younger. Even so, he charmed even the most cynical sceptics, described by one insider as "the ageing, grey-haired robber barons he was elected to rule".

Soon afterwards, Richard was appointed chief executive. However, after a further agency merger and yet more management changes he left last year to become chief executive of The Henley Centre, part of the marketing services giant WPP.

And so to young Jim, who has crossed both his elder brothers' tracks. He went to drama school intending to be an actor, until he decided he wouldn't be much good. So he went to Oxford Polytechnic and from there he moved into marketing, joining General Foods as a trainee - a result of both encouragement from Richard and his desire to "get into business".

Thence to Coca-Cola and the computer games giant Sega, before joining Sky Television as one of a trail-blazing, three-strong marketing team in June 1994. It was a team that produced an aggressive approach to channel branding which has been so successful that terrestrial rivals have looked on in envy. When BSkyB's marketing director Philip Ley left to set up his own advertising agency last year, Jim replaced him.

Stage, survey and satellite - the brothers remain close. They claim never to have discussed their careers with each other, although each insists he is desperately proud of the others' achievements. As for sibling rivalry, well, there's barely a whiffn