PROFILE: Chris Lovell, chief executive, Golley Slater

Change is in the air at Golley Slater. The regional marcoms agency has shifted its headquarters from Cardiff to London and created a national PR division (PRWeek, 26 January). CEO Chris Lovell - the driving force behind the changes - is also mulling a potential float on the AIM.

However, Lovell is determined that the company will always be independent. ‘We won’t be swallowed up by any large corporates such as WPP,’ he declares from the meeting room of the agency’s new £2.5m art deco offices near London’s Oxford Circus. ‘If you start working for a large corporate, and I am talking from experience here, things become centred around money rather than doing great work.’

Curiously, the meeting room is decorated with lavish, dark leopard-print wallpaper, which contrasts with the neutral minimalist feel of the rest of the building. The room looks as if it would be more at home in the offices of Penthouse magazine than those of an agency that markets Spam, the Army and Twinings.

Lovell is quick to shrug off any suggestion of decadence. ‘It was here when we arrived,’ he says.

He says his philosophy in life is to think carefully before doing or saying anything, which perhaps explains why he is a little guarded. However, the 44-year-old father of three (and majority owner of a multi-million-pound business) occasionally reveals a glimmering sense of humour.

Lovell insists he does not follow a religion, but his approach is positively new-age. ‘Every day you can learn something new,’ he declares. ‘It is a requirement that as you get older you need to become more interested in life, or more interesting.’

He suggests that the sale of his dir­ect marketing company, Lovell Vass Boddey, to IPG in 1997 was a huge boost to his confidence. ‘When you sell a company, it changes what you do – it can change your self-esteem,’ he reflects.

Following the sale, Lovell took a year off. It was during this time that – aside from ‘spending a fortune’ – he realised he wanted to look for new business opportunities and return to the boardroom.

‘Being on the beach every day is not as interesting as it sounds,’ he says, before declaring that he never intends to stop working. ‘As I get older I might change what I do in terms of more mentoring and coaching but I will never retire.’

Lovell is certainly a consummate businessman, driven and focused.

In the past three years, he has watched the agency’s turnover soar to £60m, but is aiming for a market capitalisation value of £75m-£100m before cashing in his proverbial chips.

How­ever, life for Lovell has not always been about suits and boardrooms. One of his lesser-known claims to fame is his inclusion in the Who’s Who of Heavy Metal.

He left school at 17 to be a drummer with metal band Jaguar, whose website describes his style as ‘unstoppable’ and ‘hard hitting’. Lovell played with the band for three years, during which time they signed to the same agent as metal gods Metallica. Today, Lovell enjoys shooting and fly-fishing. He has a rod on the River Kennet but denies reading associated media. ‘No, I don’t read Angling Times, I’m not that much of an anorak,’ he laughs.

In fact, Lovell today is a world away from his years as a long-haired rocker. His former employer – and now management consultant, Janet Williams – says she originally employed him because he was the candidate who looked most like a banker. ‘He has metamorphosed since those days into a luvvie, and has now learnt how to be a chameleon,’ she laughs with admiration.

Describing himself as ‘good at running people-businesses’, Lovell claims to be driven by ideas. He says the ‘process’ side of running a business is his weakness. But this may be false modesty from a man who has managed to double Golley Slater’s turnover since buying it four years ago.

Certainly, his track record is not bad for a former headbanger.

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