Barry Hearn is considered one of the world’s leading Sports promoters. His promotional magic on certain minority sports has brought them to a far larger public.
Barry Hearn: Beginnings
Barry Hearn qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1970 and spent several years with a major firm of international accountants before moving into the commercial world as finance director of Kensal House Investments. After a period in the fashion industry and property development, he became chairman of Lucania Snooker Clubs in 1974 and began to involve the snooker hall chain in amateur tournament promotions.
In 1976 Steve Davis began playing at the Romford Lucania Club and the two struck up a friendship which was to have a major influence on the world of snooker. In 1982 Riley Leisure acquired the chain of Lucania Snooker Clubs for £3.1 million leaving Barry free to concentrate on the development of snooker, both in the UK and overseas. With the formation of Matchroom Sport in 1982, Hearn was able to turn his abilities to developing a stable of top snooker players and ultimately produce televised events.
Barry prospered from the snooker boom of the 1980s when he formed Matchroom with players Davis and Tony Meo. Later Matchroom snooker players include Terry Griffiths, Dennis Taylor, Willie Thorne, Neal Foulds, Jimmy White, Cliff Thorburn and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Barry actually appeared alongside many Matchroom players in the video for “Snooker Loopy”, a hit for “rockney” pop rock duo Chas & Dave.
In December 2009 Hearn was elected as the new WPBSA Chairman after Sir Rodney Walker failed to get re-elected and left his post. In June 2010, following a vote by the members, Barry took over a 51% controlling interest in the organisation’s commercial business World Snooker Limited with a view to revitalising the game. The commercial business was separated from the regulatory body, the WPBSA.
Barry Hearn: Boxing Promoter
A long term boxing fan, Barry moved into fight promotion in the late 1980’s and has promoted hundreds of British, European and World title fights for television over the years. His first promotion being the Frank Bruno versus Joe Bugner bout at White Hart Lane in October 1987. He offered the television rights to Greg Dyke of London Weekend Television for £200,000, who agreed to pay £250,000 because he did not believe Hearn could deliver for the quoted price. Barry has since promoted many leading British and Irish boxers, including Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed, Steve Collins and Herbie Hide
Through the 1990’s Hearn turned a number of niche sports into major TV attractions with a succession of innovative ideas. His acquisition of a majority shareholding in the PDC in 2001, saw him appointed Chairman as the company went from strength to strength.
Barry Hearn: Football Chairman
Barry was the chairman of the football league club Leyton Orient from 1995 to 2014. Before Hearn’s takeover the club was facing a financial disaster due to the collapse of the then chairman Tony Wood’s coffee business in Rwanda at the time of the Rwandan genocide. Barry’s intervention and financial input assured the club’s future. Although Hearn has been successful in stabilising the club financially, his tenure included the club’s longest run in the bottom division (the fourth tier) of the Football League since its creation (in 1958).
At the culmination of the 2005–06 season, Orient earned promotion to the third tier of English league football (League One), their first automatic promotion since the 1969–70 season. In April 2017, Barry resigned as honorary president of Leyton Orient registering his disapproval of the new owner, Francesco Becchetti, who he claimed had “not played by the rules” leaving Leyton Orient players and staff unpaid for March 2001
Into the second decade of the 21st century, Barry has developed Matchroom Sport into one of the world’s leading independent suppliers of quality sports programming. Aside from Matchroom Sport, Barry is Chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation, the World Snooker Association, and WPBSA Ltd.
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Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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