Richard Wheatly's office bears little resemblance to that of the typical chief executive: the dimensions are modest, the carpet and furniture spartan, one window overlooks a building site and the other peers into the recording studio in the next room. On the filing cabinet a digital radio spills out bass lines and saxophone solos, and among the colourful wall-art is a bar of music, 'Blue rondo a la Jazz FM', signed with a flourish by one Dave Brubeck. And in pride of place over the chief exec's desk hangs a framed article from the Financial Times headed: 'Long drum solos are off the breakfast menu: after 10 years Jazz FM is taking the smooth ride to its first profit.'
When he arrived four years ago, urbane former ad man Wheatly found a business that was on the brink, its main brand mutated into something called JFM and a second women-targeted station called Viva haemorrhaging pounds 100,000 a month. Drastic action was called for, and Wheatly's first deft stroke was to offload Viva into the hands of aspiring media mogul Mohammed Al Fayed for an exorbitant pounds 3 million before taking Jazz FM back to its original name and plotting a path towards financial viability.
His second coup was to sign a deal with Clear Channel last year by which the US goliath took over the salesforce and a 34% stake in return for pounds 3 million and free advertising. The share price has tripled in the past 12 months, and the company at last finds itself within sight of that holiest of grails, profitability.