The MT interview: Michael Grade

He's not shy, he's not retiring and he's definitely not agitated. But our home-grown media mogul will need all his heavy-duty management experience in broadcasting to revive an ailing ITV. And with Murdoch to the right and Web 2.0 to the left, does the old stager have new ideas?

by Matthew Gwyther

It's not often a personality gets profiled twice in MT. Michael Grade is, however, an exception. In UK business, serious, three-dimensional characters with a sparklingly varied CV, reels of Technicolor back-story and yards of fruity anecdote require dedicated hunting down. And those that possess these attributes are often silenced by the anxious, dead hand of the corporate PR machine.

How many business folk do you know who arrived at their first job at the Daily Mirror, aged 17, in their father's chauffeur-driven Bentley? Or who welcomed Eric Morecambe, Arthur Askey and Jimmy Tarbuck to their first wedding? And few have risen to the heights of being named the UK's 'Pornographer-in-Chief' by the Daily Mail. Nor were many deserted, aged 15 months, by their mother, refusing to speak to her again. You could write a book about Grade. Indeed he did so himself - an autobiography entitled It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Macmillan 1999), a proper-page turner.

We first put our tape-recorder under his nose back in November 2000. The then 57-year-old Grade was behind a desk at Pinewood studios, his glory years as boss of Channel 4 and director of programmes at the BBC behind him. He was, our interviewer found, 'a changed man. After years of therapy he has mellowed, become less agitated. He has started a new family and, by day, spreads himself across a wide portfolio of non-executive roles.' This situation mystified MT slightly and we naturally asked if he wasn't tempted by another full-time job. He shook his head. 'I love this peripatetic life,' he replied and took another drag on his cigar.

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