News Irish News

Sunday 18 March 2018

Stage is set for new chapter in life of O'Reilly

INM's ex-chief executive ready to lead music giant The Agency Group onwards and upwards

Gavin O Reilly
Gavin O Reilly
The Agency Group's Neil Warnock
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

GAVIN O'Reilly, the new CEO of global live music management giant The Agency Group, can't sing to save his life.

"I have a dreadful voice. I sang One by U2 in a bar once and I do remember the patrons not being overwhelmed," the former chief executive of Independent News & Media (INM) said.

"I can do a very, very bad Frank Sinatra too."

He got into music listening to some of his dad's, Tony O'Reilly's, old records of Bill Haley And His Comets and Al Jolson.

"We didn't really rely too much on our parents' music selections," 46-year-old O'Reilly says, before going on to talk about his mother, Susan Cameron.

"She is a great musician herself – a wonderful piano player."

The first record he bought was "probably Elton John in Golden Discs on Grafton Street. It's not even there any more."

What would be his desert island disc?

"The Joshua Tree album. It was their breakthrough record. It defined an era. I love U2 and I like Blur," he added.

"But I haven't been hired by Neil Warnock at The Agency Group for my own personal music expertise, because, God knows, there are enough experts here already.

"I'm going to be worldwide CEO. Neil, who is a bit of a legend in music circles, formed The Agency in 1981 and now it is the leading global live agency in the world with over 2,000 acts and has 75 talent agents across the world.

"There are other agencies that probably have greater name recognition like CAA or CM, but this agency and Neil have won numerous awards."

O'Reilly believes that with the live music market growing at 10 per cent a year, new markets are opening up all over the world.

"It is a rapidly growing area and it's an increasingly important part of a band's earnings potential because there is great growth in digital downloads, but unfortunately it is on a low price point.

"The job of the agency is obviously to maximise our return for our bands, and Neil and his team of agents have been pretty damn good at that.

"So I'm going to be building really on what Neil has already created." He scoffed at last week's media reports that he is now some sort of cigar-chomping music impresario.

"I'm not going to be an agent myself. I'm the worldwide CEO.

"I'll be managing the business side and looking at strategic development with Neil.

"I think some people were saying it was a sort of unusual move," he added, "but quite simply, since leaving INM I have been looking at a number of options, trying to get into businesses that I think are growth orientated and this certainly ticks that box.

"It is certainly very people orientated. I spent a lot of my time at INM dealing with talent so really this is not too much of a departure for me. It is a different talent; it's musical, and obviously some of the music I will like and some of the music I won't, just like running [the] Independent where some of the copy I read I didn't like," he said.

"I don't so much miss the corporate life but I miss a lot of my colleagues at Independent. My two daughters are in Dublin. But happily I get to see them enough and obviously, I think it would be fair to say, having two teenage daughters, they now have a reason to text me more frequently than they have in the past, perhaps looking for concert tickets. Of course, I miss Dublin. It has been a major part of my life really for the last 20 years.

"Ireland is still in a tough place. And the UK, particularly London, is not in such a tough space. So there is more of a spring in people's step over here. Obviously, I hope that returns to Ireland. I think I'm one of the minority who think that the austerity programme is not a way to rebuild the economy. I know there are obvious reasons why that has to be, but I think it is just going to prolong the recovery and it puts the focus too much on international companies for job creation who are obviously there for tax.

"There have been some great investments by the Googles, the Facebooks and the Microsofts and all the rest – and long may that continue – but , of course, what's suffering is indigenous Irish industry and small businesses, because they are being lambasted with austerity and more taxes."

Sadly, he believes, some of the country's great assets are moving into foreign ownership because the Irish economy and banking system are in such bad shape.

"Already you are seeing financial investors looking at Ireland and thinking it is about to turn the corner and of course they have money to bring into Ireland – you could argue that's a good thing – but you know, there is no real liquidity for businesses in Ireland. There isn't the opportunity and there isn't the confidence, frankly, for domestic businesses to be able to invest. Now, there are great businesses in Ireland – great multinationals that have come out of Ireland and they are doing well – but I'm talking about local businesses."

He added that while Ireland was important to him, he would only be back home now for "personal and family reasons" rather than commercial reasons.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News