Paul McGuinness, the fifth member of U2
Paul McGuinness first clapped eyes on an embryonic U2 in Dublin’s Project Arts Centre in May 1978.
The fledgling manager saw something in Edge’s guitar playing and the way Bono defiantly stared into the crowd that made him feel the four-piece could be really big one day.
It was one of those serendipitous moments that would change the fortunes of both McGuinness and U2. It is difficult to believe that Bono and friends would have become such a huge entity had it not be for the careful management of McGuinness over the past 35 years.
Very much a fifth member of the band – whose earnings have always been split equally five-ways – he is rightly regarded as one of the very best managers in the business.
It was McGuinness who nailed down their deal with Island Records and was instrumental in keeping the band on track when everyone (with the notable exception of Adam Clayton) wanted to quit early on due to strong religious beliefs.
And it was thanks to his super persuasive powers that U2 got extremely favourable royalty rates around the time of The Joshua Tree’s release. Rumoured to be as high as 28pc – more than double that of the industry norm – it would make the Dublin band as powerful as they were popular.
McGuinness’s great strength is his enthusiasm for moving forward and taking risks – major deals with Apple and Live Nation have kept the money flowing in, even in an environment of decreasing album sales.
He would also have used his business nous to make U2 as fiscally efficient as possible – hence that controversial decision to move the band’s tax affairs to Holland in 2006.
Not everything McGuinness has touched as turned to gold, though. He invested heavily in the unsuccessful Quasar laser gun game in the 1980s and some of the acts he has managed, including Paddy Casey, have struggled to be more than fringe attractions.
But this debonair figure, renowned as a raconteur, steered the U2 ship with élan in bad times as well as good and it will be intriguing to see how Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry fare with Madonna’s equally legendary manager, Guy Oseary, at the helm.