Magazine article Management Today

The Fine Art of the Auto Trader

Magazine article Management Today

The Fine Art of the Auto Trader

Article excerpt

For John Madejski (right), chief executive of Goodhead Group, publisher of Auto Trader and rescuer of Reading football club, cars are like works of art. Simon Taylor, BBC motor racing commentator, looks over his collection

When John Madejski was 14 years old, he lusted with adolescent fervour after a jaguar XK140 drophead coupe. In his minds eye it was white, with red leather upholstery. Instead he swapped his record-player for a battered Austin 7, which he drove round his parents, garden.

Thirty-two years later he got his XK140; white, with red upholstery. It was totally restored, down to the last stitch and screw: a brand-new car. But, as so often happens, the dream was better than the reality. He found it no fun to drive: heavy, slow, unwieldy on modern roads. The speedometer, renewed along with everything else during the rebuild eight years ago,now shows 872 miles.

He has other cars, too. Three Ferraris, a 220mph Jaguar XJ220, an ACCobra, two E-types. Every Thursday his car man, Mr Poon, starts each car, carefully warms it up, cleans it minutely, and puts it away again. Nowadays the joy of driving fast cars no longer exists,' says Madejski. Speed cameras, road conditions - it's all rather sad. Cars are becoming homogenised blobs. I love my cars aesthetically, for their shapes. More than anything, I like to look at them.,

Madejski is a tall, thin, fit 54-year-old. He is worth an estimated 145 [pounds] million thanks to the regional Auto Trader magazines - 12 of them in this country, and others in France, South Africa and Ireland. In 1993 he bought into the loss-making Goodhead print group, appointed himself chief executive, and has turned it back into profit. And, he has rescued his local football club, Reading, from the debris of the Maxwell collapse.

When Madejski was old enough to drive legally on the roads, he persuaded his mother to help him buy a `frogeye' Sprite. He wanted white with red seats, but to his disappointment it was delivered in black. In the early 1960s he worked as a car salesman in California. `They specialised in British cars - Aston-Martins, Jags, Healeys. It was called Oxford Motors, so my English accent went. down well. I used to talk about the bonnet and the hoot, and they loved it.' He was paid commission only, and at first he couldn't sell a thing. …

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