Sunday, 25 May 2014
MY NEW RADIO STATION IS BORN AND I BELIEVE I'VE FOUND WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR.
If you had been reading the last two chapters of My Story you will know I was looking for something new to happen in my life. The fact is I hadn’t a clue what that thing was! I know that doesn’t make much sense, but I just wasn’t happy, I felt that there was too much sameness to much predictability, that was until a Ukrainian called Robert Casper invited me to join him for lunch at the Los Dunes Hotel. When I arrived I was greeted warmly by Robert, who I guess was in his early forties and dressed entirely black, black t-shirt, black jeans, along with someone he introduced as his brother (not a blood brother) Frank Mani and his lawyer (cant remember his name). He immediately struck me as a likeable character who's accent reminded me somewhat of the film character ‘Borrat’. He explained that his company, Majestic, was involved in the construction a large development called Majestic Village in Casares, about 30 minutes from Marbella, and that it will consist of 115 luxury town houses, tropical gardens, swimming pools, a spa and 5 star gymnasium. With that said, he got very excited as he started to unfolded his plans for the future to me, which included launching a TV station featuring life style and property programs. Without catching his breath he announced: “I want YOU Maurice, to head up the TV station for me!” I was speechless, but I knew I had to be honest with him; “Look Robert, this is very nice of you but I don’t think your idea has a chance in hell of working, there are literally hundreds of TV stations on the Sky Platform which 99% are losing money, most of them are spin offs of successful stations, your idea, as exciting as it sounds, I don’t believe will work!”
I remember thinking, that was it, a short lived lunch with the Ukrainian followed by a polite goodbye and I would be gone. I was wrong, what I said didn’t seem to bother Robert or he just chose to ignore my advice. He took another mouthful of his lobster salad washing it down with a glass of cold Chablis, he smiled and said. “Okay Maurice, I like you, I like your radio show programs, I want you to join me, so what do you think WOULD work?” I knew exactly what would work and fired straight back at him; “ A purpose built Talk Radio Station.”
“You know I like that, okay deal you’ve got yourself a radio station, how much do you need, a million, two million , how much?” I remember thinking 'here we go again' I’m so used to Marbella attracting these types which come full of dreams of making a fortune only to fid themselves leaving with nothing. There is a famous saying 'The way to make a small fortune here, is to start with a large one!' It happened to me with Petrovic a few years ago, so I didn’t know if I should take this mans offer seriously, after all I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me and here I am being offered millions to build a radio station by someone who I only met 30 minutes ago! This is what a dreams are made of, but unfortunately are rarely a reality. I felt I had nothing to lose, so I decided, at least, to go along with him and find out more. We agreed to meet the next day in his offices which were housed at the La Colonia Center San Pedro.
Early the next morning I went to meet Robert at Majestics headquarters which where on the second floor of the La Colonia Centro San Pedro.
I needed to take control here; “One moment Robert" I exclaimed " I know very little about the frequency and have only just met this gentleman. I think we should take our time here so I can make a few checks.” The poor man seemed very confused, I'm sure he wasn't expecting an instant response like this and to tell you the truth nor was I.
Robert was getting more and more worked up: “How much, how much do you want?”
The Spanish gentleman looked like he needed air when he exclaimed nervously; “100,000!”
“WHAT!” I yelled “A 100,000? I’m thinking max 5,000 euro”
Then the most extraordinary series of events started to unfold; Robert picked up the phone called his secretary and asked her to bring in a cheque for 100,000 euro made out for cash! Within 10 minutes of his arrival a very surprised but I’m sure equally delighted Spanish gentleman left Roberts office clutching a cheque made out for 100,000 euro and no questions asked!
Robert then turned to me and said “Now That that's done, where are you going to build your studios?” Half joking and still shell shocked by what had just happened, I told him I liked his office suit and felt they would convert into spectacular studios. Robert picked up the phone and asked his PA to inquire if there were any other free offices in the center as he and the staff were leaving because Maurice wants these offices for his new radio station. This was almost all to much to take in. Within a matter of an hour or two Robert had handed over 100,000 euro to a stranger who I knew very little about, informed his staff he was kicking them out of there offices to make room for my new radio station. This was all so crazy but it was something that I was going to have to get used to in the future when dealing with Robert.
I remember driving home that evening hoping that my decision to leave Onda Cero and join Robert to start my own station was a good idea.
Although I had absolutely no former experience of actually managing a radio station I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve. The first thing I needed to find was an expert to help design and engineer the building of the station and for me there was only one man for the job and that was Allan Bowley. So I called him offered him the job and thankfully he agreed to join me. Allan and myself started a series of meetings to talk about designee and what I actually wanted to achieve from the new station, which incidentally I still hadn't come up with a name for.
It was important at this point that the plans to open this new station was kept well under raps until it was almost ready to launch to allow me to achieve maximum marketing impact and as I said I was still very committed to my show on Onda Cero.
No sooner had I started to hatch my plans for the station than I received an invitation to broadcast from the Caribbean Island of St Lucia by Discovery hotels and the St Lucia Tourist Board. I excepted the invite as I felt that the realty was, that it would be a least a couple of months before the new station would be ready. Before I went anywhere I needed to make some important decisions for the station; firstly being the presenters and again I knew exactly who I wanted to join me. From Onda Cero I wanted Mary Harbo Howard Brereton, Barry Mitchell and Craig James. I also wanted Nicola Chalmers to head up the sales team. After a series of secret meetings that I held in my H! Magazine offices, which coincidentally were just four floors above the OCI studios, I remember thinking at the time if the radio manager Pepe Navajas only knew what was going on just a few floors above him he would have had seizure!. An agreement was finally reached that they would ALL leave Onda Cero and join me at the new radio station.
The week before flying out to St Lucia I was called to a meeting at Robert’s lawyer office where he was drawing up the agreement for the new company and needed a name for the radio station. I remembered using the name Radio Europe on my various trips to Las Vegas, Canada, London etc So I thought why not? I’ll call the station Radio Europe. In fact once the lawyers did a search that name was not available so I added ‘Mediterraneo’ making it Radio Europe Mediterraneo. It was only on the way home after signing the contract that I realised that the name abbreviated was REM and I added FM so the jingles would always say REM..FM! There just were a few other presenters from other radio stations that I wanted to poach including Gillie Revill, Roy Silverthorne and Sid Olivera again thankfully all of them also agreed to join me. Robert had already moved out of his offices and handed them over to me. So Alan and I could start the work on the laying out of what goes where etc. As soon as this was done Alan started to order the equipment and I took myself off to St Lucia.
I loved St Lucia I found the Lucians very friendly and welcoming. Wendy and I were put up by the St Lucia Tourist board in there VIP Villa over looking Marigot Bay. The setting was stunning not only did they supply this Villa but we had our own chef, housekeeper and driver, spoiled rotten we were.
The show guests were also all arranged in advance so I really had very little to do but the two hour shows per day. Judith and John Verity who owned the Discovery development were the most wonderful hosts and arranged for Wendy and I to visit the islands finest restaurants every evening and beaches during the day they couldn’t do enough for us. It was a very successful trip and we were sorry to leave the Island. My story about St Lucia doesn’t end exactly there and not in a million years did I realise as we flew back that one day in the future that I would be revisiting St Lucia under very different circumstances. But that’s another story and will come in a much later chapter.
We had hardly arrived home than I was off to see the progress in the new studios. Alan was doing an amazing Job and I hoped all would be ready in a few months around May 2004 for launch REM FM. Robert was as good to his word and gave Alan an opening cheque to buy the very best of radio equipment. No, we didn’t spend millions or anything like it, but we did have one of the most advanced technical studios available.
We signed up new contributors including TV chef Kevin Woodford who wrote column called the Travelling Chef and make up and beauty supremo Armand Breasly to join H! Magazines ever expanding team. We continued to attract some big stories including David Beckham’s visit to Marbella, an exclusive interview with Mr Nice Howard Marks and Max Bygraves (whose daughter Maxine lives in Marbella) We also interviewed Melanie Griffiths and Antonio Banderas at their beach side mansion in Marbella Rebecca Loos gave us an exclusive interview on one of the hottest stories of the time, the fling she had with David Beckham.
I also interviewed Loos for my radio show whilst she was staying as a guest with Max Clifford in Marbella, in fact this interview triggered off an almighty row between myself and Clifford; in the middle of the interview, which was going very well I asked Rebecca about the Beckham affair etc. Max came running over shaking his hands everywhere shouting "Stop, Stop, I never gave permission to talk about Beckhame!" Rebecca looked highly embarrassed and I was furious. "What the hell do you think I'm here to interview Rebecca Loos about then?" I retorted . I could see the danger in Max's face. To be honest it was frightening. So I backed off and left. Photo of the interview before the row.
Shortly before the launch of REM FM Mary, Howard, Barry, Craig and Nicola handed in their notice to Pepe at OCI and left,
Weeks before the launch I ran a series of teaser adds in the press and magazines asking the question: " Where had all the creme gone?" then naming each one of the popular missing presenters but not mentioning where in fact they had gone and absolutely no name of the radio station on the add.
The photo below is of the REM FM studios. It was taken just after we re-branded REM FM., which I'll talk about in a later chapter
It felt like only yesterday when I sat with Robert discussing the possibilities of launching a new radio station and here I was at 8am on a beautiful May morning sitting in the state of the art REM.FM studios waiting for the news to finish so I could make my welcoming speech to a large anticipating audience. All I remember was how nervous I was but thankfully all went well. Alan had done a tremendous job, the studios looked amazing and more important all the broadcast equipment worked like a dream. Almost from that opening day REM FM became an ‘overnight’ success. I say 'overnight' but it has taken me 12 years to get to this point. Each of the presenters were fantastic as was the reaction from the advertisers and that was down to Nicole Chalmers professional expertise.
On the day of the launch I changed the newspaper and magazine ads to an idea I had which was inspired by a Marilyn Monro quote when asked what she wears in bed at night she replied "All I have on is my Chanel No5" (Whats missing from the picture of the advert is the REM FM logo at the bottom of the page. So it reads; It's all I have on .....REM FM)
I first met Max back in the mid 80’s when he was attempting to hold the TV Soap Awards which as far as I remember was a total flop at the time. But I do remember instantly not liking him. We were standing in the foyer of a shabby London hotel when he began to drop a long list of famous names he claimed he represented at the time including the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando to name but a few. It was from that moment on I never believed a word he said and in the years that followed the only so called BIG names I remember him represented were the Z list celebrities including Kerry Katona (who dropped him after she claimed he lied to her) Jade Goodie who he claimed he would never represent until he smelt her money, Antonia de Sancha who was photographed toe sucking MP David Mellor and Rebecca Loos. Hardly a celebrity A list he was claiming to represent. I might be wrong about this but I honestly can't see a comparison with this list and those he claimed to have represented in the past. He did represent Simon Cowell but exactly what he did for him I’m not sure. He was caught lying live on TV to Louis Theroux: He was also caught up in a lying story with the Hamilton’s.
Whilst I was hosting my radio shows I did use Max to get in touch with some of his clients that were making the news for interviews etc but we never were friends as such and certainly never socialised. As much as I disliked him , I felt sure, based on much of the feed back I was getting about him talking behind my back, that he also disliked me.
Not long after launching REM FM I was having a coffee with Max when Robert called me : “Do you know this Maxi Clifford guy?” he asked. I couldn’t believe it, here I was sitting with Max and Robert asks me this. “I’m sitting with him now” I said. “Good” Robert replied, “ I want to meet him, please bring him to my office” I explained to Max about my eccentric millionaire backer telling him he would like to meet him. It wasn’t long before Max and myself were sitting with Robert who explained that he wanted him to look after his companies PR in UK. I was shocked, did Robert not know that Max’s specialty was scandal and sleaze not what one would recommend to be connect with an up market property company. Unfortunately I had to leave Max and Robert together, hoping Robert would make no rash decisions, as I had a radio show to do. As soon as my show was finished I high tailed it over to Roberts office, Max had left but Robert told me he had signed a year long contract for what I believe was £30,000 per month!!! I was furious and told Robert so. This was to become the first of many rows I had with him over Max. I asked what had Max promised to do for this ridicules amount of money? Robert told me Max assured him he would keep any negativity about Majestic out of the press. This I knew to be bullshit, no journalist worth his salt would refuse to print a hot story because Max Clifford asked him. This is a service that Max always says he offers his clients, in fact he claims most of his work is keeping his clients names out of the press, this has turned out to be a winning line for Clifford : 'I will keep you out of the press' Its totally impossible to substantiate this claim.
Shortly after signing the contract with Robert, Max made his first move by persuading Robert that it would be a good idea for his companies image to supply Kerry Katona with a villa to be photographed in for an OK! magazine spread! promising huge exposure. Kerry Katona to be associated with a high end property company? Was Max taking the piss I asked Robert, all Robert would say that he likes and trusts Max. I went crazy. Robert hired a hugely expensive Villa, two chauffeured driven Mercedes, a private chef and maids for Katona and her Bling friends. The whole week must have cost him 50,000 and when OK! came out,there were 4 pages on Kerry Kotana in Marbella. I read every word to see if I could find where Roberts company Majestic benefited and eventually at the very end of the article under the photographer, the hairdresser and makeup, Majestic was mentioned in small print saying they supplied the property. NO ONE would ever have seen it unless they were specifically looking for it. It was a fucking disgrace! For 50,000 Robert could have bought months of full page ads in OK!. Not satisfied with that Clifford riped off Robert again by persuading him to hire an even bigger Villa for the week so Simon Cowell could film a sequence for his X Factor show. Again Robert footed the bill, not only for the hugely expensive villa rent, but for a number of chauffeured cars, chefs, cleaners etc. The promise this time was that Majestic would get nation wide exposure to millions of TV viewers for his company Majestic. If he did I certainly missed it!! Robert seemed to be under some sort of unhealthy influence by Clifford.
One day I was called into Roberts office where Max was sitting with him grinning like a Cheshire cat. I instantly knew whatever was going to be said I wouldn't like it. Robert announced that Max had recommended a UK based famous radio presenter to join REM FM. I had never heard of this famous named presenter whats more I explained to Robert that we had a full compliment of presenters and had no room for anymore. Then Max opened his big mouth. “We,” meaning Robert and himself, “have decided he could co host the breakfast show.” I was furious, how dare this patronising arse licker tell me who should or who shouldn't join my radio station! Robert just started to laugh as Max was taking control.
“Anyway,” I said “We have no budget to pay an extra presenter.”
Max shot back “No worry, Robert has agreed to cover the cost.” Then he handed me a contract to sign.
“I’m not signing this!” I yelled at Max “Firstly I’m not the administrator, that’s Frank, so my signature means nothing and secondly I don’t agree with any of this!” I was at the point of walking out on the whole business. When Robert calmed me down and confirmed he would pay the extra salary and asked me to please sign. I don’t know why but I signed something I was to regret later. It turned out this presenter was brilliant and I was delighted with him as a member of our crew plus I liked him a lot as a person. Unfortunately Max’s interference was to cost me his friendship later. All was coming clear to me, just as I feared, Max was bleeding a fortune from Robert.
Whilst talking about Max I just want to move this story forward to Christmas. The Majestic staff were arranging their annual Christmas Party when again Max interfered persuading Robert to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds more than originally planned on the party by staging it in the ballroom at Marbella’s leading hotel, the Puente Romano, and Flying in comedian Bobby Davro (god knows what he got Robert to pay him for the night, all I can tell you was that Robert had never heard of Bobby Davro, like hr never heard of Kerry Katona or Simon Cowell) he also somehow got Robert to allow him a couple of tables so he could fly in some of HIS clients from UK (not sure if Robert paid for their air fares and accommodation, but knowing how Max had access to Roberts wallet I wouldn't be surprised!) and the most sickening of all that night Max got up on stage and made the most obviouse over the top patronising speech I had ever had the misfortune to hear. All those present, except for Max’s friends, wanted buckets to throw up in. What was amusing was that Robert wasn’t even in the ballroom to hear this, he was sitting in the hotel bar chatting to a friend. The whole episode with Clifford was nothing more than a major rip off. Max also signed up another few clients in Marbella that were angered by Max's unfulfilled promises !
To be continues.....
2004 PHOTO ALBUM . FROM THE LEFT: Kid Creol at the Don Carlos hotel in aid of Variety Club. H! Magazine sponsored Gloria Gaynor in concert at the Villa Padierna Hotel, top photo is me on stage about to announce the iconic super star . Dion Warwick was a member of the audience that night. Handing over the keys of another Variety Club Sunshine coach to a local home for the mentally handicapped. (more photos will be added, so keep checking)