Miron shapes the future of radio

Global Radio chief executive Stephen Miron explains why taking the helm at Europe's biggest commercial radio company gave him the fresh challenge he needed.

Global Radio chief executive Stephen Miron
Global Radio chief executive Stephen Miron

It all began in March 2007 on day one of retail mogul Philip Green's 55th birthday extravaganza in the Maldives - better known as "PG55" to the invited.

Stephen Miron, then managing director of The Mail on Sunday, happened to take a seat at the same table as Ashley Tabor, who was then poised to make an offer for Chrysalis Radio, and the pair "just got on really well and stayed in touch".

This meeting of minds led to Tabor making Miron an offer last August to become chief executive of radio at Global Radio, which by that point incorporated Chrysalis and GCap Media assets, purchased by Tabor for £545m at the top end of the market.

A well-circulated industry rumour has it that Miron was lured across by a handsome £1m basic annual salary, but the smooth-talking operator bats off such a suggestion with his trademark hearty laugh, calling it a "fantastic urban myth".

However, he does say: "It's straightforward really. My role at Global Radio is bigger than the one I had at Associated Newspapers. But I'm not going to get into conversations about what I earn - that stays between me and my wife."

Well connected
Having spent 20 years in the newspaper sales industry, where he made his mark thanks to stunts such as his Prince CD covermount on The Mail on Sunday and his excellent networking skills, Miron is a well-connected man, both at work and at home.

"My Dad [a former Thames TV sales employee] ended up living with a lady called Stevie Spring [Future Publishing chief executive] for a while, so she still refers to herself as my stepmother. Stevie likes telling everybody that, even though she's actually far too young to play that role," Miron explains.

His departure from Associated, where he enjoyed a golden boy reputation, shocked the industry and prompted speculation that he had missed out on the top job, which later went to Guy Zitter, now managing director of Mail Newspapers.

But Miron refutes this notion point blank. "After I left Associated, they restructured the company anyway - I am not sure if that was connected to my departure. Regardless, I had maxed out my career there, even if I had been hired in a more senior role. I needed a fresh challenge and Global Radio presented such an opportunity - a chance to shape the future of a medium."

Radio industry figures wonder how Miron, who is known for being a tough negotiator for a 12% medium, will adapt his sales patter, and how he will cope selling a medium that is perceived by some as complementary and accounts for just 3% of total ad spend.

But Miron isn't fazed by such concerns. He says: "I would be delighted to have very tough negotiations about radio, but there a number of issues we have to tackle first. The problem for radio has been the way sales are structured and the clarity of the stations' branding. Our job is to make radio easier to buy and to help clients understand radio by presenting very clear brand propositions."

He adds: "Radio is a really defensive medium: the sector has been beaten up for so long that everyone apologises for working in it all the time. TV and newspaper companies have a lot more ego, but it is often smoke and mirrors. Radio's products are phenomenal - no one else can get close to the portfolio we offer clients - but the sector doesn't make as much money as it should."

Miron is tight-lipped on Global's plans for weathering the economic storm in 2009. Just five weeks into the new job, it is unclear whether he is being coy or just doesn't have the answers yet.

However, he is more forthcoming on issues such as radio trading, which he feels needs to move away from share-based deals to a line-by-line model. "When there are only two major players in the market and share becomes less important, you need line-by-line deals, individually tailored to each client," he explains.

And when asked whether Global will raise or lower its prices this year, he replies that radio is already too cheap, painting the wider picture by saying: "Price isn't the barrier to entry in any case. Would radio directors double their expenditure if we halved our prices? No - because that's not the problem."

Network strategy
Global has elected to back national brands, choosing to network shows in favour of total localised content - the polar opposite of rival Bauer Radio, which carries no networked shows. Miron defends this strategy, denying that some listeners may feel cheated by their local station becoming a Heart or a Galaxy overnight.

He believes a name change doesn't make much difference to listeners and that people just want quality radio output.

"We can't keep managing decline," he says. "We need to grow and if the content is better because it is networked, then listening numbers will rise and we will grow. Then everybody is happy."

Miron is undertaking a strategic review of each department of the company. The commercial team has already had one clear-out, when Global merged with GCap Media, but Miron warns that he and Mike Gordon, the group commercial director he hired from News International, will be "ruthless" in making sure they are best-in-class. He refuses to say at this stage whether this will mean further job cuts.

He and his sixth-floor office crew of group chief executive Ashley Tabor and group executive director Richard Park intend to be at the helm of the largest commercial radio company in Europe for as long as it takes to turn UK radio's fortunes around.

That's what Miron was brought in to do and, if he pulls it off, he could prove to be Tabor's best investment to date - the champagne will be on him at "PG60".  

Chief executive, Global Radio
2003 Managing director, The Mail on Sunday
2002 Managing director, Associated New Ventures
1998 Commercial director, Independent Newspapers
1988 Sales executive, rising to ad manager, The Mail on Sunday
1985 Sales assistant, rising to sales executive, TV Times

Lives Cobham
Family Married to Suzanne Miron, director of women's media at Bauer Advertising, with two daughters - Anya, 4, and Georgia, 6
Drives Maserati
Desert island media Sky+ box, Mail Online and a large radio
Relaxing activities Golf and taking money from his media friends

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