I had the good fortune to speak with Barry Hearn several years ago. I found his story of success, growth and passion through the founding and development of Matchroom.com which was pivotal in turning snooker, darts, bowling, golf and of course, boxing, into the accessible household viewing it is today, one of spectacular inspiration. He is a pioneer and superstar in business. 5 years later I emailed him in the hope he would be interested in speaking about the business travel he has undertaken over the years and give the viewers of our new travel website www.thelostexecutive.com an idea of what it takes to be an international media mogul.
As always, Barry surprises. Not with an email from his personal assistant or an official introduction from his marketing director, but a phone call to my personal mobile and a lovely conversation that revealed this incredibly successful man is as humble, kind and personable as he appears.
And hard working. Barry Hearn clocks up to 300 000 miles flying a year and as the Chairman of Matchroom.com he is still very heavily involved with his son Eddie (managing director) and has a strong hand in influencing decisions to further direct and lead his company. He is a family man and a laugher at heart, easily finding the humour in a situation and not holding back when heaping the team he works in with credit.
“In any one year, I guess I fly between 250,000 to 300,000 miles, so life is hectic and I would be lost without a team to organise me, especially as I am getting older!”
In fact, when it comes to arranging his schedule, he admits that he is almost entirely beholden to two very important women. His wife and his Personal Assistant.
“My PA has worked with me for over 30 years and totally runs my business life and gives me an itinerary for every trip, which always seems to work.” He says, “There are times, however, when old age kicks in like my last trip to Rio de Janeiro when clutching my itinerary I tried to board the 8.20pm flight to New York only to find out my itinerary said 6.20pm and had already left!”
The Fastest Passenger Planes
Barry has been travelling for long enough to have seen the way we travel change. He expressed a feeling that air travel has not been developing in a straight line as other technologies in travel have done.
“In some ways, air travel has gone backwards rather than forwards,” he explains, “My favourite flight was of course on Concorde to New York. In the 70’s I had an office in New York and when I would take the 10am flight I would be in the NY office to start work at 9am the same morning. I would then take the late evening flight home on a jumbo, get my clothes pressed, have a shower and be in my office for a 9am start the next day. Happy Days!”
He goes on to say that the absence of Concorde was a massive blow to business travel and the time saving it offered and that he never understood why the concept was abandoned instead of developed?
“Mind you I flew on Concorde the day after the terrible France crash and for a capacity of 100 people there was just seven passengers on the flight.” He admits, “I still believe that the day after the disaster in Paris that Concorde was probably the safest plane that anyone could ever fly on.”
White Suits, Rockstars and Big Waves
I asked Barry what one of his most memorable travel experiences were and he immediately sprung into a story that left me in stitches.
In the 80s, Barry’s trips to Asia were sponsored by Cathay Pacific and he flew with them when they were visiting Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore which were usually reached via Hong Kong etc.
“I will never forget my first trip to Thailand with Steve Davis when we were asked to wear white suits with sunglasses, so we looked like ‘rock stars’.” He paused here for this image to sink in, “I thought this was a bit over the top until we touched down at Bangkok to see over 300 young ladies welcoming and screaming at us as if The Beatles had arrived.”
He then explained that they were taken by boat to the docks and while being half blinded by cameras and deafened by adoring fans the boat accelerated away and caused a wave of water to crash over both of them.
“Lasting memories and certainly the last time I ever wore a white suit on arrival!”
Beds and Pans In The Sky
While Barry clearly misses Concord, he does feel there have been some positive developments in airlines.
“Using flatbeds has definitely made a huge difference to my flying experience,” he says, “I am fortunate that I can sleep pretty much everywhere and after something to eat and a few glasses I can be relied on to go into hibernation for many hours.”
(At this point I turned green with envy, I’m 6.6 and can barely sleep anywhere.)
“My last trip to Australia surprised my colleagues when on arrival I went straight from the airport to a golf course and played 18 holes, they were shocked but I wasn’t as I had 12 hours sleep in total on the journey!”
However, there are other areas where improvement is needed. Catering on board long-haul flights especially, which is not the same standard as it used to be. “In the old days on Air New Zealand for example they use to be called ‘The Ritz of the skies’ and the chef would actually cook your meal in front of you, with an open flame and a pan… which is a bit different from the trolley dollies you get served by today.”
“My absolute packing essentials are my phone charger and gym kit. If you want to travel around the world and be capable of extensive meetings during your trip, after checking into a hotel after a long haul flight I recommend going to the gym whilst charging up your phone to start receiving all the emails which have been coming in, so you can then be ready to go to work.”
“Fishing is a passion of mine and one that has kept me sane throughout most of my life,” he reveals.
“From the Marlin World Cup in Mauritius to the Shark Cup in New Jersey, experiences at Nimmo Bay in British Columbia and my next anticipated adventure to Chile to the mountains of Patagonia. I could not recommend it enough to any seasoned traveller who wants to try something different. However, some time ago I heard about a massive influx of sail fishing at a place called Bom Bom Island on the western coast of Africa. Needing no more encouragement I flew out on Libreville Airlines which was an experience not recommended!”
A private plane took us out to the island where we fished for three days and caught nothing and on the way home I checked in to be told there were no business class seats, despite having a confirmed business class ticket. The airline representative assured me that if I insisted to travel on business class it would not be a problem, other than I would have to wait another two days before I could fly home. I travelled home on seat number 52C, where I sat alongside local residents who took out a Bunsen burner and started cooking with it in the aisle! When I queried this with a stewardess, I was told ‘they always do it’.”
Laughing, he adds, “There are some seriously strange people out there!”
After reading the article Barry Hearn kindly invited us to the Waldorf Hilton in London for coffee and biscuits and to discuss The Lost Executive and our plans for the business and what we want to achieve in the future and our plans to get there.
Incredibly courteous, engaging and impossible to slow down he gave us a piece of advice that I think everyone could benefit from:
“Ideas are everything. Never stop having them. And the crazier the better.”
He also spoke about the importance of family and making time for them and making time for leisure with them. He spoke about his son, Eddie Hearn who is the boxing promotor behind boxing champ Anthony Joshua, as well as being a director of the Professional Darts Corporation. A man who is in his own right achieving some astonishing things in the name of sport.
“Eddie is doing amazing things,” he said, “Which means I can keep an eye on new projects for myself too.”