I was seated in the reception area of the largest petroleum company in the UK and was so excited and totally distracted thinking only about the Sun. What a change in events. I’d called Trevillion, ensuring he’d me there at 2 PM and Andrew too. We were now all set. The Sun was our key, I was sure of this and so was Trevillion. It was necessary to concentrate on the meeting at hand though. I needed ESSO as much as I needed the Sun. Concentrate Alan Concentrate! It was hard.
“Mr. Zoltie?” said the brunette with the nose ring. “Yes” I responded, completely startled. I really was in a daze and my mind was elsewhere.
“You’re early (one of my best traits), but we’re ready. Please come in”
Our meeting took about an hour and the 4 members of the ESSO marketing team were really impressed. They told me they felt the only negative was they were trying to stay clear of giving away free product with the purchase of petrol but that maybe they could actually sell this collection in their stores, with each pin costing 99 pence if their customers purchased 5 gallons or more. We’d suggested a retail cost of 1.99 pounds each, the pins would cost ESSO less than half that amount, so this would’ve been a good deal for all. They wanted to know how we were intended to market the collection. I told them it was my intention to sell them blind. In other words we’d package them in an opaque package and anyone buying them wouldn’t know who they’d received until they opened the package. We’d deliberately make some of the players rare or hard to get and that would make it difficult to collect the whole set thus creating a craze. This it seemed was standard practice in the collectible card business so I felt it should apply to us too.
I left the meeting with ESSO in good spirits and ready to motor like crazy to the meeting with the Sun. The appointment was as I said before for 2 pm and I am never, I repeat never late for a meeting.
I drove all the way back to South Kensington to my office and then Andrew and I got on the Underground and took the train to Tower Bridge where News International’s offices were located. We arrived at exactly one minute past two, and I will never ever forget this, Trevillion and Tony were standing there at the gate pointing at their watches insinuating that I was late. They didn’t look pleased. I jumped through the security gate and faced my accusers.
“I am only 60 seconds late” I said
“Yes but you ARE late” suggested Paul.
“I assure you Paul this will never happen again”
And since that day, and you can ask Paul, every time we’ve arranged to meet up I am always early! That would encompass hundreds of meetings that we’ve attended and every time I show up early he reminds me of the day I was late. Even if I show up 1 hour early to collect him from his home, having driven 2 to 3 hours to get there (yes we did live that far away from one another), he always reminds me of the day I was late! Typical Trevillion!
We were escorted to a large office in a building occupied solely by the Sun. Ellis Watson walked in and immediately introduced himself and Tony introduced all of our team. Ellis was surprised that there were so many of us. He picked up the phone and asked someone else from his department to join us. After a few minutes another gentleman joined the meeting, which had already started.
I was already showing Ellis the Pele pin and explaining how Paul and I had managed to sign most of the players we’d wanted for our collection, to contracts. We still had a few to go but we were confident that we’d do it. In actual fact we had no signatures as yet. Only promises. We explained that we were trying to find a retailer to sell the pins and what we really wanted to do was offer every reader of the Sun, and there are 4 million daily, a free pin that they could collect from this retail outlet, providing we ever found one.
Ellis was fantastic. He told us that their philosophy was to try to offer their readers something free one or twice a week. They’d had many ideas and produced many different items ranging from packets of flower seeds to make-up to toys but the most successful item they’d given away was a Mars bar! I told him that I’d been there the day before and he told me he believed I was wasting my time.
He said, “You need to go to Martins the Newsagent in Essex. They have the best coverage across the UK and I know someone in there you can talk with. They actually sell more papers for us than any other store in the UK.”
He went on to tell us that they loved the whole idea and that the collection itself should become a huge craze. He expected about a 2% redemption figure from the readership should they do it. That gave us a firm idea on how many pins we’d have to “donate” to the cause.
“Alan you need to get a meeting with Martins and then come back to see me. If they do it we will do it. When you come to our next meeting we can discuss terms”
He then continued, “I can see this running for a week in the Sun and News of the World and of course as we’ve known Paul here for many years we’re confident that when we use his art in the paper, it will be massive. We’ll also run a competition for 5 days and the winners will get some pins”
“How about this Ellis” I said, ”We’ll make some specially numbered sets for the winners. In other words we’ll make pins that no one else can get. If we made 20 sets with each pin numbered and each set numbered i.e. 1/1, 2/1 etc how would you feel about that?”
There I sat, spouting this idea to Ellis and I didn’t even know if I could do it! What bothered me most was, were I could put the numbers on the pins? They were made of brass but covered in epoxy resin and the only place I could think of was the back. Could we do it though?
“I think you need to put chewing gum in the pack” said Ellis.
“I’m not sure we have the possibility to do this” I replied.
Suddenly Paul piped up.
“How about a collector card in each pack with a drawing on the front of the card and a soccer skill on the back, all illustrated by me?”
“In other words” asked Ellis “When you produce the Gazza card you’ll show his dribbling skills? (Ball control for you Yanks who are reading this)”
“Exactly” said Paul “we can demonstrate how he beats a man easily by drawing it on the back of the card”
“Brilliant” replied Ellis. ”Do it. Call me when you’ve met with Martins and we’ll meet up again. I want to run this at the start of the football season so make it fast”
The meeting ended and we all left. We left with the Sun wanting to publicize the project and with the name and phone number of a contact at Martins who we’d call in a few hours and we also an idea for producing collector cards. Bloody Hell! We were big time now. Weren’t we?
We hopped on a taxi back to the office to call the man at Martins. In the cab on the way back Andrew was on cloud nine. He just couldn’t believe what had happened. He was already counting the money we were going to make! We got back in less than 30 minutes and as I entered the office my secretary told me that Tracey Venables was looking for me urgently.
“Hi Tracey how are you”
“Alan I saw my dad last night and he’s really interested in your idea. Can you meet him tonight at his club in Kensington?”
“What club is that?”
“It is called Scribes. He owns this with his new wife Yvette. Can you be there at 6?”
“No problem, will you be there too?”
“It will just be you and him and his partner Eddie Ashby”
“Thanks Trace I owe you one”
“You owe me more than one Alan. Don’t let me down. I’ve built you up and he is excited to meet you”
We agreed to catch up the following morning when I’d seen her father and given him the full scoop on our project.
Getting the meeting at Martins was easier than I ever believed and the fact that Ellis Watson had recommended us made it that way. The buyer there agreed to meet me the following week and it just so happens that he was a huge football fan. Things were really shaping up rapidly. I was sure that we’d only this one chance to get it together. If we didn’t accomplish this with the contacts that we’d now made we were really screwed. There wouldn’t be a second chance, of that, I was certain.
Scribes was located about 5 minutes walk from my office. It was a club located in the basement of an extremely old building in Kensington, which is one of the nicer parts of inner London. The club itself was a members only club and when I got there I found only 3 people inside. I was shown to a room where Terry Venables and another man were both in deep discussion. The other man was introduced to me as Eddie Ashby. Both men were really smartly dressed and Terry initiated the conversation.
“Tracey tells me you have a great idea”
“I take it you’ve seen what we’ve done?”
“I did and I see big potential with these pins. What do you want from me?”
I took a few minutes to explain to him what we’d done so far and where we’d been and what I thought he could do for us. I told him about the Sun and Martins and how we’d managed to get these people. I remember one comment I made about going to Mars the day before and he came back at me with “well that’s a long way to go” It was then I realized that this man had really sharp wit and was indeed very likable.
He knew all about Trevillion and told me to pass on his best wishes to him. He wanted to know if he was still as mad as a hatter. I told him he was even madder than that!. The meeting with Venables lasted about 10 minutes and then all of a sudden he got up and shook my hand and said, “Pleasure to meet you Alan. Tracey said you were a nice guy and I agree. I know you want me to be involved with you on these pins and I’m interested. I can see that with my backing we could take this all over the country and into Europe too. I know a lot of people in the game so I’ll leave you here with Eddie to sort out the details” And with that parting statement he left. I knew though that he was very busy so I wasn’t too bothered to be left with Ashby.
Ashby said to me that he felt that “Tel” as he called him would do a super job for me and he wanted to know what I had in mind in the way of compensation. I told him that I wanted Venables to own part of the company and receive a royalty on all pins sold and to help me promote the business throughout the footballing fraternity. Ashby told me that this sounded very good and he asked me if I would put together a contract for Venables then bring it back in so they could look it over. He was a very mild-mannered man and he mentioned to me that when I returned I should join him and Tel for dinner or lunch.
“How long do you need to put the contract together Alan?” he asked
“About a week I think”
“OK then lets meet this time next week for lunch. Any problems with that and I’ll call you”
You wouldn’t have believed the smile on my face when I left that meeting. I was deliriously happy. My mind was racing and my heart was thumping. I’d just secured the services of one of the most famous footballing personalities in the world, subject to contract I reminded myself, and things were going from good to better to incredible!
What a day this had been. It wasn’t over yet.
Mike called me from LA. It was now 7 30 PM, London time.
“We need to talk” We always started our conversations this way.
“What’s the problem boobala?”
“Well I know I told you I was moving out of the house but I can’t do it. I am confused and Jacy is giving me shit and she wants me to stay and Nanette wants me to leave or she will leave me and to be honest I need you to tell me what I should do”
“You need the Zoltie talk? Right!”
“I do. What day are you coming over?”
“I will have to be here all of next week and then I’ll come. By the way…” I then told him about the days events. He was impressed. Even he knew who Venables and the Sun were!