Friendliness is part of Sir Lew's success
BLAIR THOMSON presents a profile of SIR LEW
GRADE, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive,
Associated Television Corporation Ltd.
For a man who started life
as one of three brothers in a struggling Jewish
refugee family in London's East End and who
claims never to have had any ambition, Sir Lew
Grade has not done too badly.
business tycoon, a Knight of the Realm (for
services to export) and unchallenged king of
the showbiz world are titles he has earned -
not inherited - by such sheer hard work and
long hours of non-stop activity that the mind
is left boggling.
Most heads of big business -
Sir Lew is chief executive of the multi-million
pound Associated Television Corporation, which
embraces films, theatres, property development,
"canned" music, gramophone records and
theatrical costumes as well as the Midlands ITV
company, ATV Network Ltd. - take advantage of
their position, possibly with some
justification, by not arriving at the office
until 10a.m., having a two-hour-plus lunch
break and being away from the bustle of central
London before the rush hour.
Not so Sir Lew. He is
usually half-way through his mail in his
spacious office in ATV House, Great Cumberland
Place, London before even the cleaners
arrive for the morning dust-round.
And often as not he is still
on the phone - possibly clinching another
export deal with Japan, Denmark, Mexico or
America (or all four!) - long after the last of
the junior staff have packed into the homeward
bound tubes and commuter trains.
Nor is it unknown for people
high in the business world to be something less
than friendly and approachable. Yet Sir Lew is
recognised even by his rivals - I don't think
he has a real enemy in the world - as a fair
and very human person, who can be approached
direct by the lowliest office boy and asked for
a rise. And get it.
This friendliness is part of
the secret of his success, for he is as much of
a showman as a showbiz-man. When he smiles, his
eyes twinkling in a chubby, round face, pushes
a ten-inch long cigar - his "trade mark" - into
your top pocket and, in almost a caricature of
his race, spreads his hands wide and says: "My
boy - for me, you'll do it, won't you?" it
takes a very hard-hearted person to say
It is this persuasiveness,
backed by an unbroken record of promises
fulfilled, that has helped him to sell millions
of dollars worth of programmes around the world
and earn his company two Queen's Awards for
export and himself a knighthood.
When he says a programme
will be good, it usually is. As he would put
it, with disarming immodesty: "As an agent,
no-one ever questioned my judgment. If I said
it was great, they accepted it. I was usually
This trust in his judgments
and promises, built up over the years since
those days when he was just another agent in
the showbusiness jungle, has grown to such a
pitch that he can even sell programmes that, at
the time the contracts are signed, are not even
on the drawing board.
He has the confidence of the
rich and successful - but it is an innate
confidence, not born of his position and
wealth. And he is certainly the only
millionaire I can believe when he says he would
do what he does for nothing and start again
from scratch if his empire collapsed.
There is, of course, a tough
side to Sir Lew - the toughness that enables
him to survive and succeed as a business man in
the entertainment jungle. It is rarely seen
outside the boardroom or away from the
negotiating table; and, when it is, it is in
response to the one criticism he will react to
angrily: that he serves up in TV programme
terms only what the public wants.
"Of course I do," he says.
"But what is wrong with that? I know what the
public want - they want to be entertained. And
that is what I am trying to do."
Sir Lew (above) is probably
the best known man in show business. He started
in the theatre as a dancer, and then went into
artists' management. After the war he booked
many English and Continental acts for American
television, and then formed the Incorporated
Television Company to produce filmed shows
suitable for international audiences. This
company is now a subsidiary of ATV Corporation.
His massive achievements in the export field
have twice won for Associated Television
Corporation the Queen's Award to Industry.