“Flamboyant” is a wonderful word 

20 April 2006 tbs.pm/281

Flamboyant TV chief who was drawn to conflict dies

You’ve got to love UK libel laws. They’re sufficiently nutzo that people from around the world flock to the UK in order to sue their enemies, knowing that it is easy and the profits are high.

But, on the flip side, the libel laws in the UK are useful, as they expire the moment the defamed person, no matter how litigious, expires.

So it gives me great pleasure to be able to say: Peter Cadbury, founder of Tyne Tees and Westward, was a complete nutjob.

He had an interesting hold over the ITA from the beginning. When founding Tyne Tees, the ITA was happy for him to be involved as a sort of work experience, having promised him the southwest contract. When the contract was awarded, to Peter Cadbury with little in the way of competition, he set up his little empire and deserted TTT.

He created a great little company, one that was so impressive on its viewers that, 4 or 5 names and 24 years later, it is still what people in the region call ITV. At the same time, he ran it from London, only ever hazily aware of what was going on in the region or the company. At night he watched regional ITV… Anglia, to be precise.

If I’m making him sound a mentalist a la Nero, sorry, but I’m not being inaccurate: this guy was a special. More than once his board attempted to depose him – quite something to do when the guy you’re getting rid of owns more than half of the company. He picked pointless fights not only with Westward’s board but also with his neighbours, the police, two out of three wives and, less pointlessly perhaps, the entire Conservative party. He owned Keith Prowse, the ticket agency that pioneered price gouging of customers, but fell out with that board as well and sold the company on.

Westward tried several times to get rid of the quixotic man at the head of the table. Able to burst into tears on cue (a talent shared with Lew Grade, who could cry like a baby when he put his mind to it), a lacrimose Cadbury would call a full shareholder meeting… and then vote his 55% in favour of himself and against the usurpers.

Of course, it all ended in tears, and not just Cadbury’s. In 1980, rumours were rife that Westward faced an major competitor for the contract. Cadbury engaged private detectives to follow the staff and management of the Plymouth station and a pitched battle erupted between the board and himself. Yet again he used his shareholding to get his own way, clearing out those who, yet again, had had enough of the weirdo.

The IBA had the last laugh. Possibly guilty of corruption in giving him the contract in the first place, the Authority now did the unthinkable and took the contract away, for no better reason than to be shot of him. Westward didn’t have serious competition, just the mad world of TSW having a punt on the contract. TSW were surprised to have won. Cadbury was distraught. Worse than that, the IBA suggested in kindly tones that he and his board might like to gently sling their hooks immediately, allowing TSW to move in in the August of 1981.

Peter Cadbury departed the ITV scene with a £200 fine for wasting police time and the stain of “conduct unbecoming to the chairman of a listed company” on his reputation. Something of a trapdoor then opens in history, and we next hear of him when his death was announced yesterday.

So, goodbye Peter Cadbury, and thanks for Westward. Before they made you, they broke the mould.

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