Monday, 16 June 2014
A new baby in the family. The authorities trick me out of my radio licence and a TV show in UK at last!
As we entered 2006 the warning signs were now flashing red, the recession was deepening and radio advertising wasn’t getting any better but worse I began to detect serious problems within Roberts Majestic Group of companies of which REM FM was part of. My accountant was advising me to try to completely separate REM from him because if he does go down he will also pull the radio station with it.
Not all real estate companies were in trouble and bucking the trend was the phenomenal success of young Darragh MacAnthonys MRI company. Darragh formed the property group MacAnthony Realty International (MRI) in 2000 selling overseas holiday homes to mainly Irish and British customers. From a head office in Marbella, the company offered properties in countries including the Bahamas, Bulgaria, Cyprus and the Dominican Republic. Darragh speed of expansion was breathtaking; he’s a young man who talks his actions like a bullet leaving a gun. He was living the dream in Marbella, huge corporate offices, a mansion in the hills above Marbella with Ferrari's and Bentley's in his drive. A huge billboard above Marbella's main highway with his bigger than life photograph on it read: Welcome to MacAnthony Territory! It seemed where ever you looked you would see billboards with Darraghs photograph on them advertising his MRI companies. He was, in short, a marketing genius and so rich was he becoming that he flew around the world in private jets accompanied by four burly bodyguards who followed him everywhere to assure his safety. He achieved all this by the age of 29!
I got a call one day from Darraghs PA to ask would I come into the MRI headquarters in Marbella as Darragh has asked to see me, as he was a major advertiser on my radio station I was hoping this wasn’t going to be a meeting cancelling his advertising contract.
“Explain more,” I asked
“I’m setting up a TV station in London on a SKY Channel and I want you to have your own talk show on it, what do you say?”
I didn’t hesitate “ Okay, I’m up for that, tell me more”
Darragh explained that he’s hired a large production company to run the station and his young sister Wendy would be the overall MD. The studios where in Wembley and once he told me the huge budget he was willing to spend to make his TV work it all began to sound to good to be true! Surely after my past experiences I should have read the warning signs, Hadn’t I been through all this with Robert and Majestic TV, who were now losing a fortune. But on the other hand I had nothing to lose and all to gain. My own TV Show in UK with my choice of star guests with an open cheque book. Whether it was too good to be true are not I wanted it and Darragh was offering it so I accepted.
I remember arriving in Varna and switching my phone only to have received a very disgruntled message from one of my staff explaining that he has now missed his mortgage payment, his bank account is empty and he needs his wages NOW! Again I called Thierry and told him that a serious situated was unfolding at the station and unless all the staff got paid within 24 hours I will lose my most valuable presenters (this was a slight exaggeration). Thierry promised that he would do his best, but I now knew , for sure that big trouble lay ahead. Thankfully somehow Thierry managed to see that the salaries were paid and I enjoyed the rest of my time in Varna with my first grandson.
On the way back from Bulgaria we stopped off in London where MacAnthony’s chauffeur driven limousine picked us up at the airport and took us directly to the TV studios in Wembley.
No sooner had we flown back to Spain than I was summoned into a meeting with Theirry, Robert and Frank they wanted to make a small change to the structure of the radio station’s SL company and that Frank would resign as administrator and I would be made REM FM’s administrator, naively I thought that would distant myself and the radio station from the pending collapse of the Majestic Group but far from that it in fact tied me in even closer. This was something I regret that I agreed to, to this day!
PIRATE RADIO STATIONS:
The next series of events I remember as if they happened yesterday. By mid June 2006 I knew that the first envelop had already been opened and as we hadn’t heard back from the Junta I knew that we had fulfilled all that was needed on the financial side, now all that was left was for them to inspect the contents of the second envelope and I was double, no quadrupley sure we had the licence in the bag.
As I was leaving the office late one Friday afternoon out of the corner of my eye I spotted a fax on the machine, I thought to myself I would leave it there until Monday but then for some reason I removed it and saw it was from the Junta de Andalucia and although I couldn’t read it as it was in Spanish I was sure all it must be is an a official recognition that we had past the first test. There was no one except me in the office so I faxed it to my accountant so he could read it to me. When applying for the licence we had to give a bank guarantee for the 30,000 Euro license fee, he explained that the guarantee was in fact not correct that it was whats known as a closed guarantee meaning the bank for some reason made it a 3 month guarantee when the Junta required an open end guarantee. "No panic," he said "You have 3 working days to get the bank to reissue the guarantee and as this is Friday afternoon you will need to call your bank first thing on Monday to make sure they will urgently deal with the matter".
"No Panic!" he said, after all I had three days to deal with this. So first thing on Monday morning I called the bank and explained to the manager what had happened , I also sent him a copy of the fax from the Junta. He said he would get onto it immediately and would have it ready by Tuesday (the next day) afternoon. I then got my the office to call the Junta and explain that we only received the fax after the banks had closed on Friday evening and as they were not opened on Saturday my bank was preparing it now as a matter of urgency and we wanted to know if I should drive up to Seville on Tuesday as soon as I picked up the guarantee. The woman from the Junta explained that we shouldn't worry and that we could send it by a courier service recommended by the Junta on Wednesday morning (the third working day) and as soon as it was sent to fax her the receipt from the courier service that they had picked up the guarantee and that would be recorded as an acknowledgment that the requirement had been carried out. We organised the courier service to meet me at the studio 9am Wednesday which they did and off they went to Seville with the new guarantee. I then sent their receipt and called the Junta to make sure they received it, which they confirmed so that was that so I thought we were still very much in the race.
One week later disaster struck when I received another fax from the Junta informing me that REM FM was now officially eliminated from the licence application system because, wait for this you’ll not believe it, it explained we were in fact one day late as Saturday was counted as a working day for the Junta. I nearly collapsed with shock I just could not believe what I was hearing.
Consequently on December 2013, the Supreme Court sentenced José María del Nido to seven years in prison and five and a half year ban from public office as required by a qualified cooperdor crime of embezzlement of public funds and a continuing offense of trespass, contributing to the exploitation of the coffers of the City of Marbella, for irregular fees charged to the municipality between 1999 and 2003 amounting to over 6 million Euros!!!
Good choice I made there then????
Charity was still very much an important part of my life. I was invited by Mark and Lynn Quinlan to host a charity gala in aid of a foundation they set up called The Water Angels. The Quinlan's lost thier two year old son tragically when he drowned in their swimming pool after wandering out of the house without anyone noticing. The money raised would go to an a awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of swimming pools and young children.
I'd flown back and forth to London throughout the summer attending production meetings in readiness for the launch of my TV show which was scheduled for September. During this time I grew to continually dislike my producer and her insistence in me wearing an earpiece which I was trying to get used to during rehearsals. This was distressing me so much so that I called my friend Gloria Hunniford and asked her advice. She told me to tell them I didn’t want to use one and went on to tell me that Jonathan Ross, Parkinson and Paul O’Grady among many other TV talk show hosts refused to wear earpieces as they claimed it interrupted their line of thought and concentration throughout an interview, how true that was. But I decided not to make to much of a fuss as this was my opportunity to appear on UK TV and I didn’t want to blow it. I also had to use an autocue for my introduction of guests, these were scripted for me in advance and as I am dyslectic and the words the script writers used were not the words I would chose it made my life pretty unpleasant. I hoped things would get better as soon as we started to record the shows. Many well known TV faces were already appearing on the station hosting their own shows including ex Blue Peter host Peter Purvis , John Stapleton, Neil and Christina Hamilton and many other faces I recognised mostly from property and financial TV shows etc.
My studio set design was pretty basic but I’d seen a lot worse on ITV. The animated opening title was excellent (see video at the end of this chapter) My guest list was top class, most had been guests of mine on my radio show including author Fredrick Forsyth and Lord Jeffery Archer, the wonderfully witty Ned Sherrin, Actress Dame Prunella Scales who played Sybil Faulty in the TV’s hit comedy Faulty Towers, TV’s Leslie Granthem, Anita Dobson TV's hit comedy series Birds of a Feather stars Leslie Josephes Linda Robinson and spoon bender Uri Geller to name but a few. Also among my guest were ordinary people who did extraordinary things, like the the solder who’s eyes were gauged out when he came to the recue of a woman outside a pub that was being attacked and became a world class downhill skier, a memory man who could memorise a whole pack of cards after I shuffled them and many other amazing guests. But it came abundantly clear that the station was be run by a pack of amateurs who were more or less clueless when it came to producing late night talk shows! The musicians they gave me were so hopeless they wouldn't have qualified for a school band never mind being studio musicians! All in all the finished product wasn't to bad and was surprisingly extremely well received.
The biggest problem I was having was exhaustion. I would fly into London on a Thursday evening be met at the airport by Darragh’s ever present chauffeur who would take me direct to my hotel (always a 5 star no less) there waiting for me at reception would always be a large brown envelope that would contain my scripts for the next days shows. I would read and curse them because they were nothing like the way I would to introduce my guests but I had to do what I was told!! Worse that b+*** of a producer of mine insisted I wear my glasses whilst reading from the autocue believing it was my short shortsightedness that was the cause of me not reading the words correctly. I tried to explain I hated wearing my glasses on TV and that it was my dyslectic problem that was to blame. Like my earpiece problem she was having none of it and insisted I wear the glasses (see photo)
I must have looked a right sight whilst waiting to board my flight with my mascara starting to run etc!!!
The cost of these shows were very high, different from my radio show, guest demanded high fees plus cars to collect and take them back from the studios. Eventually the station, like Majestic TV and many other independent Television stations, went into liquidation but not before costing Darragh a small fortune. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that he gave me and enjoyed the year I spent on TV.
Other events I attended during 2006 was the official visit by princess Cristina the youngest daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to the Cudeca Hospice where I was delighted not only to have my photograph taken with her (can’t find it at the moment) but also to chat with her.
And finally the year ended on a much happier note with yet another huge successes for the REM FM telethon for Cudeca. But I knew I was in for a horribleness 2007!
To be continued
A short video from my TV show
Different photographs from my TV show: