Magazine article Marketing

Radio Gaga

Magazine article Marketing

Radio Gaga

Article excerpt

Richard Huntingford * Group chief executive * Chrysalis Group

The west-London headquarters of Chrysalis is rocking as I enter to interview newly promoted group chief executive Richard Huntingford. Ronan Keating is warming up to do a live gig and the foyer is full of girls, winners of a competition run by Chrysalis' Heart 106.2FM station.

There's a palpable buzz about the place and Huntingford, 44, is still not immune to the atmosphere even after nearly 15 years in the business. "I'm hoping to get down there myself shortly," he says. "My kids will never forgive me if they know Ronan's been in and I didn't see him."

Huntingford denies it's the glamour that has kept him at the media company that owns radio stations, TV programmes, internet lifestyle sites and the copyright to songs by artists as diverse as David Bowie, Leftfield and Blondie. Instead, he says it was his love of music that convinced him to leave a ten-year career as an accountant at KPMG for a corporate development role at client Chrysalis, then little more than a hip record label.

It wasn't until 1993 that he spotted the potential of "that Cinderella medium", commercial radio, which at the time was cornering nearly 10% of the ad market in the US, but only about 2.5% in the UK.

"Back then in most areas of the country you had a top-40 station on FM and a 'Gold' station on AM," says Huntingford, "but if you were 30-something there wasn't really a station for you. I saw a great opportunity to develop an adult contemporary music brand."

And so Heart was born, aimed at the 25- to 44-year-old age group, closely followed by Galaxy, now the UK's biggest youth-radio brand. Galaxy provides 'dance and rhythm-driven' music, a new genre that has not only endured, but spawned a huge industry in its wake.

Chrysalis today has two Heart and five Galaxy stations, with plans for another in the East Midlands. It has just launched The Arrow, a new station concept aimed at Huntingford's own generation, or as he puts it, "we 40-pluses who have grown up with commercial radio". It is throwing itself behind the digital revolution with its majority share in MXR, the consortium that includes Capital Radio and car maker Ford.

Huntingford has been rewarded for launching all this with the top job at the company, second only to founder Chris Wright. It is a position well-deserved -- in the past year the company's advertising revenue grew 35%, compared with 15% across the industry, and in the past 18 months, while he was group managing director, its market capitalisation bloomed from [pound]250m to [pound]500m. Within the next three years, Huntingford has ambitions to double that again, through a mixture of organic growth and acquisition.

Chrysalis is in an enviable position compared with its three bigger rivals, Capital, GWR and Emap. …

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