Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Big-Hitting Mr Showbiz Is Looking for a New Punchline; ENTREPRENEURS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Big-Hitting Mr Showbiz Is Looking for a New Punchline; ENTREPRENEURS

Article excerpt

Byline: Alex Lawson

CELEBRITY agent Jonathan Shalit is not a man short of confidence. "The way I came into this business with no background in it, bludgeoned my way to the top and am now one of the best-recognised faces is amazing. Simon Cowell always says there are three Jonathan Shalits because he sees me everywhere," he says.

Shalit's self-assurance is understandable. Over the past 18 years he has built one of the largest talent agencies in the UK, spanning music, sport and broadcasting and snaring some of the biggest names in their industries en route. To some, he's known as Mr Showbiz, to many he's the man who discovered Charlotte Church.

He counts Cowell as a personal friend (he also represents winners of Britain's Got Talent) and has the likes of TV personality Denise van Outen, Spice Girl Mel B and ex-footballer and film star Vinnie Jones on his books.

His trademark outfit (red socks, black waistcoat, black and white tie) is as common a sight as warm champagne at celeb parties and he sports the attire when we meet at Roar's Charlotte Street offices.

Born into a "classic, white Jewish London professional family", he was expelled from school on multiple occasions and was bribed by his parents not to work for Virgin Records on Porto-bello Road. He did a week at a City law firm and, after a stint travelling, worked at insurance market Lloyd's of London before a switch into advertising.

"It was the closest I thought I could get to the glamour of the entertainment business," he explains. "I got a window cleaner to take a letter, knock on the boss's window and give it to him so he would look out and see me in a sandwich board, advertising my services, bypassing HR."

After training in marketing at Saatchi & Saatchi, Shalit set up a graphic design consultancy working with Volvo, P&G and Airbus. Selling this provided the backbone for his talent business.

"My first client was a talent show singer called Matt Mudd. I thought I'd found the equivalent of Ed Sheeran but he disappeared into obscurity."

His big break came in the form of a small Welsh girl with a huge pair of lungs. Lunching at The Ivy, Shalit heard talk of Church's talent and quickly auditioned her in her front room.

"It was around the turn of the millennium, people were thinking about what they wanted from the future and we called her the Voice of an Angel," he says. A deal with Sony followed, selling eight million albums and putting Shalit in the company of President Bill Clinton, the Royal Family and even the Pope.

But things turned sour. He was fired -- "her mother didn't want to pay me, simple as that". The bitter row was reportedly settled for PS2 million. He readily admits Church's fame underpins his success. He now has majority holdings in four firms within the Roar group. …

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