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Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 17:38 GMT
Media millionaires: the secrets of success

Chris Evans New multi-millionaire Chris Evans is all smiles

TV and radio star Chris Evans is set to become a multi-millionaire, pocketing up to 75m by selling off his Ginger Media group.

He's made it look easy - and anyone who wants to make their fortune might start wondering whether there are more millions to be made.

Evans became famous when he hosted The Big Breakfast, Channel 4's early morning programme.

But in 1993, the zany, sometimes shocking presenter surprised the nation by showing some serious business sense, launching his own company, Ginger Productions.

chris tarrant One way of making a million: Chris Tarrant's TV quiz show

With his own company, he made his first prime-time TV show, Channel 4's quiz Don't Forget Your Toothbrush. The format was sold around the world, bringing in funds to help him build up his empire.

As his fame grew, Evans left Channel 4 in 1994 to join BBC Radio 1, hosting the breakfast show, produced by Ginger, not the BBC.

In 1996, he launched his Channel 4 tea-time show TFI Friday - another success for his own business.

After a spell at Radio 1, Evans was taken on by Richard Branson's Virgin Radio - where he ended up buying the station for 85m, with Branson's help.

His smooth path to fame has earned Evans the reputation of a broadcasting mogul.

UK's chief entrepreneur

Evans is by no means the only person to have become a millionaire through the media, after starting from humble beginnings.

Richard Branson, who left school at 16, began the life of an entrepreneur with publishing and advice centre ventures.

Richard Branson Richard Branson uses self-promotion to market his goods

His record company shot to fame when he spotted the potential of bands which later became international stars.

Not content to stay with one business, Branson expanded into films and broadcasting, computer games and even condoms.

Each successive venture was bigger than the last and there seems no limit to what he will try.

In 1984, Branson launched an airline, which rapidly grew from nothing to a business so valuable that when he sold half of it to Singapore Airlines, he netted 600m.

The entrepreneur - possibly the UK's favourite hero - also won franchises to run rail networks, and opened a store devoted to perfume and cosmetics.

The Virgin empire also encompasses radio, fashion, finance, drinks, the internet, even bridal services.

So, through his own hard work, risk-taking and spirit of enterprise, Branson is the country's fifth richest man.

Radio waves

Even fiery former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie turned media entrepreneur when he bought up the Talk Radio station, where he was chairman and chief executive, in a 24.7m deal.

His backers included News International, his former employer at the red-topped newspaper.

And he has spread his empire, snapping up a series of local radio stations to become the fifth largest radio group in the UK.

But budding Rupert Murdochs should be aware that making money in the media is not always guaranteed.

Caution urged

It is unclear whether Mr Mackenzie has yet succeeded in making much money, despite a series of business ventures, according media observers.

mackenzie Kelvin Mackenzie bought the station of which he was boss

And Eddie Shah only made money from the failed Today newspaper in the end, after a turbulent time, by selling it off.

For many people, buying and selling shares is easier than buying or selling your own company.

Especially when the likes of America Online and Time Warner join forces, sparking a surge in media shares worldwide.

But shares in new internet companies are considered so volatile that the Financial Services Authority last year issued a warning to investors. And setting up any new business is always a huge risk.

Style and presentation

Justin Urquhart-Stewart of Barclays Stockbrokers has this advice for media entrepreneurs: if at first you fail, try again.

"In America, failing is regarded as part of business life. Here, if you fail, you're a failure.

"Many successful millionaires have a history of failures - if Richard Branson tries something that doesn't work, he drops it like a hot coal and moves onto something else.

"People should learn from their mistakes - and other people's.

"It's good to be first, but it's much better to boldly go where someone else has gone before."

And making a million is all very well, says Mr Urquhart-Stewart, but to be a multi-millionaire like Messrs Branson or Evans, what you need is a talent for self-publicity.

"To some extent, you need to be in the right place at the right time, but you also must tell people about what you're doing, as well.

"If you have a good product, it will sell, but if you have a good product and style and self-promotion, you'll generate a lot more interest - and more profit."

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See also:
13 Jan 00 |  Business
Evans sells up
13 Jan 00 |  UK
Chris Evans: Ginger prince or jester?
20 Dec 99 |  Business
Branson: Still flying high
27 Jul 99 |  Business
Talk Radio swallows local stations

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