UK: The hard-working ladies' man.

UK: The hard-working ladies' man. - Work comes first for the Mirror boss, even if it means sacrificing a day at his favourite opera house, or a game of tennis.

by Rhymer Rigby.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Work comes first for the Mirror boss, even if it means sacrificing a day at his favourite opera house, or a game of tennis.

'The fact of the matter is that I don't enjoy male company - particularly in groups. I prefer women's company.' So says David Montgomery, chief executive of the Mirror Group, explaining why he is unlikely to be found at the pub with the lads watching the footie. It probably also goes some way towards accounting for his reputation as Britain's 'most unclubbable boss'.

All things considered his indifference towards his own sex may be a good thing - he is, after all the only male in the Montgomery household. And he does like spending time with his (second) wife and the four daughters aged 10, eight, six and three. 'They tend to be diverting enough,' he explains. But there's another reason why he finds their company interesting. 'I sometimes think the handling of children at different stages of development is a bit like, well, it's almost good practice for dealing with temperamental managers. You know, a child's little ego is just a junior version of a big ego.' Sometimes, he adds, with a rare grin, there's not much difference between home and office: 'I'll probably get into trouble for saying that.'

What else, then? Well, he plays tennis in London's Holland Park. 'It's easy to arrange - you pick a time and it's over within an hour and a half.

Very concentrated time, much better than golf.' Even so, work usually edges out one of two games he arranges a week. Still, it's terrific exercise if you're a bad tennis player. 'I run about to compensate for my lack of skill,' he adds.

He's also a keen opera-goer. 'If I'm in a city somewhere, I'll always find an opera if there's one playing.' Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is a favourite, but he also likes his opera difficult - challenging stuff like Leos Janacek. Again, though, time is a problem. 'I've seen a lot of operas from half-time onwards,' he admits. Glyndebourne has already been sacrificed once this this year.

When he does get away from it all (geographically, at least), there is a house in the small Umbrian town of Todi, which luckily was relatively untouched by the recent earthquake that devastated nearby Assisi. The house, he says, is part dormitory for the children and part business centre. Just as well, really, as last time he was there, a German predator, the publishing house Axel Springer, was eyeing the Mirror Group hungrily. Montgomery, ostensibly on holiday, spent 15 hours on the phone fighting off the bid for his newspaper and media group. Still, he claims, it didn't wreck his break. 'It's the change of culture and the different atmosphere that's the benefit. I don't mind sitting there and looking at green fields and working and then going for a walk.'

But does he ever feel the need to get far, far away, to switch off completely, miles from phones, faxes, annual reports and e-mail? In short, no: he genuinely cannot stand being uncontactable. This, he says, is down 'partly to personal preference', and partly to being a newspaper man - the one-time News of the World editor still buys (all) the first edition Sunday papers on Saturday night. So work is ever in the background. Indeed, on a recent Christmas Day, he penned the outline for the chief executive's statement in the annual report 'because I had a quiet period. I just sat down for three or four hours and wrote. I don't think I feel the need to stop and do nothing.'

Lawns and fields that provide the perfect getaway.

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