Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Mr Li, the Chinese media mogul

January 22, 2006

The chances are that only a handful of the top business people outside China willknow the name Li Ruigang.  They soon will because as President of Shainghai Media Group he is becoming a serious player in the entertainment business.

Mr Li began his career as a TV reporter and documentary producer, but got the taste for big business during student visits to the US a few years ago, making it his mission to meet media executives in New York and get to know the inner workings of communications regulators.

Returning home he got a job in local government and became an adviser to the deputy mayor of Shanghai, responsible for media.

In 2002 Li Ruigang was named president of SMG and soon set about introudcing a simple strategy that has since turned the company into China’s second largest media conglomerate.  He brought together as much content as possible and distributes it across as many technologies as possible – in turn, this means he is constantly wheeling and dealing with foreign companies which eye the huge financial rewards of the Chinese market.

According to the New York Times, MTV Networks, VNU, CNBC, Sony, Universal Music Group, Discovery Communications and the National Basketball Association are just some of the companies that are in business with SMG.  Typical of the deals is his partnership with Viacom which includes the co-hosting of MTV Asia’s annual Style Awards;  to co-produce children’s programming with MTV Nickelodeon channel: and to syndicate various MTV Networks programme through SMG’s 13 over-the-air television channels and 17 national digital TV channels.

What sort of person is Li Ruigang?

He makes no secret of his love for partners.  “if you have a hundred partners then you can learn a hundred different things from them” he reportedly told an office meeting recently.

Says Sumner M Redstone, chairman of Viacom:  “Li is clearly a pioneer in bringing innovative partnerships to the Chinese people”.

“He’s very commercially driven” says Wei Zhang, the chief operating officer of Sar China, a subsidiary of the News Corporation, who in a previous job, set up one of Mr Li’s first foreign joint ventures.

On the other hand, it is hard to recognise him as a civil serant given the task of preserving a “state asset”, as he calls the company.  He is charged with making SMG competitive with foreign media that can increasingly reach Chinese homes in many different ways and last November the company obtained China’s first license to launch Internet TV (IPTV) in Shainghai.

He ended 2005 on a high note when the Chinese Variety magazine named him “Showman of the Year” in recognition of the fact that “the path he and SMG have gone through reflects the learning curve of the professionals in Chinese media and entertainment business”.

2006 looks set to become another big year for Mr Li.

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“Lowe with an E, please”

January 21, 2006

 The first and only time I have meet Frank Lowe was many decades ago during my brief spell as advertising correspondent of The Times in London.

It was at one of those inevitable ad industry cocktail parties and I recall he introduced himself as “My name is Frank Lowe…..if you ever write about me it is spelt ‘Lowe with an E, please”.  It looks so much better that way…”

He went on to become a creative maven with his own very successful agency, became very rich after selling out, and for reasons unknown to me was knighted to become Sir Frank Lowe. 

But I never did write about him. That is until now when he is back in the headlines, having come out of retirement to launch a new agency and being sued for poaching people and a £50 million account from his previous employers, The Interpublic Group. In characteristic style he is denying the charges and is demanding they be withdrawn with an apology.This is a typical ad industry soap opera which will run and run with the players washing their dirty linen in public for quite a while. Not really of much interest to most people, other than insiders.

More intriguing will be the revelations and personal insights that will come out of the woodwork and these have started already.Frank Kiley, in a Business Week piece, headed ‘The King of Chutzpah’ used to work for Lowe and recalls the times when close up he saw “a creative genius” at work.

“….Frank Lowe only saw the dollar signs, despite his insistence through the years on maintaining high creative standards. He traded his creative standards for the riches that came from rolling up agencies around the world under the protective financial tent of a holding company that let him do it.”

It seems to me years later that The King hasn’t lost his taste for gold.