The recent serialisation of Lord Tim Bell’s memoirs in the Daily Mail with its exposé of the ‘backstabbing, booze and screaming rows’*, put me in mind of the difficult time I had had in leaving the firm.
At thirty-one, I’d come to the conclusion that, to get experience as a CEO in the advertising business, I needed to leave Saatchi and Saatchi, the hottest agency on the planet at that time.
I had found another, smaller, agency that was looking for someone to succeed the dashing Rupert Chetwynd as MD. And they wanted me to do that.
Back at Saatchi, I was quite surprised, when I told Tim Bell of my plans, that he didn’t follow my reasoning at all. In fact they wanted me to stay. And so I found myself in the presence of the legendary Charles Saatchi.
What would it take to keep me at Saatchi’s? The offers came thick and fast. Salary increases, trains, boats, planes. Anything you like. Oh, and by the way we’d like you to be managing director.
The problem with that offer was that the agency already had a whole raft of people called chairmen, deputy chairmen, managing directors, deputy MDs and so on. I couldn’t see that becoming MD would have any reality to it. So I declined his kind offer as graciously as I could.
As I was leaving his office, Charles stopped me: “I’d just like to say one thing to you… It won’t be as easy out there.”
How right he was. In those days, winning business at Saatchi’s was a walk in the park.
But how was I to know that?