It is said that a healthy body feeds a healthy mind, and this is certainly the case if the bright and breezy Keith Chapman is anything to go by.
Early morning meetings fuelled by coffee are generally accepted as the norm, but for 54-year-old Chapman, the senior partner of Crouch Chapman, our early morning meeting had already been preceded by a game of squash and a work-out in the gym.
‘I go to the gym every morning before work and can generally be found on the apparatus from 6.45am onwards. I also enjoy skiing and go on average two to three times a year and am not too bad,’ he says modestly.
On further questioning, it emerges that Chapman has plummeted down the notoriously perilous Cresta Run at St Moritz on a bobsleigh, a sure sign he enjoys a challenge and pushing himself to the limit.
These features are also evident in his professional life. As a senior partner in the City-based accountancy firm, he has involved himself in a raft of sideline activities.
These include his role as finance director for Lloyd’s insurance brokers Windsor and an involvement with John Smith’s Brewery – features which highlight the ever-increasing portfolio of activities open to the accountant.
His latest venture is his role as the finance director for LBH Radio (Lesbian, Bisexual, Homosexual), the first gay commercial radio station to cover Western Europe.
Based in the sleepy Essex town Frinton-on-Sea, the station caused quite a stir with local residents before it went live for the first time in October – before its official launch this month.
However Chapman has no fears regarding the prospects for LBH. ‘I am an expert in raising cash, flotations and funding and so, as with accountants in general, we are approached time and time again by potential start-ups and dot.coms.
‘Most of the time it is hard to see how they will make money, but when this venture came up, I was left in no doubt at all it will be a success’, adds Chapman.
The station is broadcast on 1386AM from the powerful Kaliningrad transmitter on the Russian/Polish border. The transmitter was once used by the Russians to spread their propaganda during the Cold War – a far cry from the pink pound audience which is sure to be listening in in the future.
It will initially broadcast from 10pm to 3am, but plans are afoot to expand the shows. Reruns of the show will be available 24 hours a day through its website – an aspect of the venture which is vital to the success of the show, and which increases its potential listener base globally.
Chapman has been able to raise #500,000 equity funding for the project so far, mainly through clients and brokers. Plans are underway to raise a further #3m, before floating the concern on the AIM market.
Chapman, says: ‘We have recently recruited two gay full-time presenters and will continue to seek DJs. In fact a big problem for us has been attracting gay board members’.
The need to recruit gay, lesbian or bi-sexual staff is understandable if the channel is to stay in touch with its listeners, however Chapman was eager to stress the company is an equal opportunities employer – and that he believed the channel would pick up heterosexual listeners.
‘After all we are living in the 21st century and by and large attitudes are becoming ever more liberal. The most surprising thing about this project is that nobody has attempted to launch a gay channel before’. he says.
The LBH venture is the last type of project Chapman expected to get involved with, although all it would appear the spirit has begun to rub off on the married father of three, as he sported a pink shirt during the interview.
He joined Coopers from Bristol University in 1967 after gaining a BA in statistics, and spent four years with the firm before qualifying and moving to Cork Gulley liquidators in London’s Eastcheap.
There, he became a partner at 25, but left when the company ironically merged with Coopers in 1980 as he didn’t fancy working for the firm again.
Immediately he set up his own accountancy practice which merged with Crouch Chapman in 1988. The name was a coincidence and it was decided to maintain it.
‘I didn’t fancy working in the big firm environment again, I find the culture at smaller audit and general practice firms more flexible and it enables me to get involved with the likes of LBH.’
Early features of LBH over the airwaves so far have included its very own gay soap opera, hourly gay news, weather reports, phone-ins and chart shows. ‘We are currently working to complete our programming and that means having to demonstrate what we are and what it is that we do in a bid to woo advertisers.
‘The great thing about LBH is that historically speaking, radio stations have been commercially successful and we have the added advantage of having an easily and widely defined market’, he adds. ‘We estimate our target listenership is three million in the UK alone and 21 million in Europe’.
This project has got a good ongoing future – better than most dot.coms and we expect to turnover #4m and be profitable by 2001′.
Confident words – but if the LBH business plan is as healthy as its FD, there appears no reason to disagree.
A £4.7bn MARKET
Number of lesbian and gay people, how much they earn and how much tax they pay
Five per cent of 8 million Londoners are gay – 400,000
One per cent of 52 million elsewhere – 520,000
Some 61% of the population is aged between 16 and 59/64.
Total number of working age lesbians and gays – 560,000
Average earnings are #20,000 approx
At 20% tax, annual gay income tax paid – £2,500,000,000
Average disposable income – £8,315pa
Annual gay disposable income – £4,656,400,000
Source – www.GAYtoZ.com.
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