Profile: Simon Jones, Hackford Jones

Three years ago, Simon Jones and Jonathan Hackford asked their boss of seven years, Matthew Freud, if they could have a quiet word. Nervously, they revealed that they wanted to set up their own TV and music agency, taking Freud’s clients with them.

Jumping ship was a bold move. 'Matthew Freud is a legend,' Jones says. 'To go up to him and say, "oh we'd like to leave and set up on our own – and we'd like to take the clients with us as well"...' He trails off, as if he still cannot quite believe it. 'But Matthew was just fantastic. We wouldn't be doing this without his generosity.'

Four years previously, Hackford and Jones had launched a music division at Freud Communications, after a couple of years of 'badgering' the management: 'Eventually, I think they let us do it to shut us up. They said – if you want to do music, then go and get the accounts.'

Jones and Hackford's working relationship had always been strong. 'He's like a brother to me – and of course we squabble like brothers as well. But there's no one else I could possibly go into business with,' says Jones.

A small business loan, a few trips to Ikea and an office above a music shop were all they needed to get the company off the ground, recalls Jones: 'As soon as I knew that I could continue working with the people I loved working with – such as Ant and Dec and Blue – I felt relaxed.'

Today – although Blue are no more – Hackford Jones still has former members Duncan James and Simon Webbe on its books, as well as a host of other stars, including Sadie Frost, Vernon Kay, Myleene Klass, Donna Air, Melanie Sykes and Hilary Duff.

The clients, and the tabloids, ensure there is never a dull day: 'There are so many surprises in celebrity PR. Even though we have great relationships, our clients don't tell us everything they're doing. I've had phone calls from police cells in the past.'

Jones, 31, says he has loved music since playing the cello and piano as a child, and has an 'unashamed' passion for pop music.

As he has his photograph taken – and stares into the lens, seductively – you get the feeling he has done this before. Sure enough, he later admits, he was once in a pop band himself, and still has the spiky hair and designer jeans to prove it.

Jones had always wanted to be a pop singer, and joined the band, Number One, through a teen magazine talent search. They were signed to Sony, and promotion of their single took Jones from his tiny hometown of Caister-On-Sea near Great Yarmouth to London for the first time, at the age of 16. 'We were told we were going to be the next New Kids On The Block,' he laughs. 'But it was a complete disaster.'

'I was quite practical about it and went back and did my A-levels,' he reflects. 'Maybe that was my one shot at stardom, and it didn't work out. But I was determined to be successful at something.'

Although Jones comes across as affable, he chooses his words carefully, and can seem a little cautious. This seems to work well for clients, including Jonathan Shalit – MD of Shalit Global Entertainment and Management – the manager who famously launched Charlotte Church's career. He praises Jones's 'integrity and discretion' and says: 'His office is faultless in keeping things confidential.' He adds: 'Simon never ceases to amaze me in his ability to get clients media
attention when he needs to.'

As well as ensuring that clients can trust him implicitly, Jones also makes it a rule not to lie to the press: 'OK, you might not always tell the entire story, but you would never deny something that was true – that's just going to come back and bite you on the arse.'

His band may have flopped, but when Jones set up his business with Hackford, two days before Jones's 29th birthday, he ensured the fruit of his ambition – to have an agency by the time he was 30 – was a bonafide hit.

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