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The QPR Podcast meets Tony Fernandes - Podcast
Monday, 30th Apr 2018 11:13 by David Fraser

A special extended Open All R's Podcast this week features an interview with co-chairman Tony Fernandes - host David Fraser explains how it came about and what he made of QPR's co-owner.

At the end of February, in the wake of our 5-2 home defeat to Nottingham Forest, co-chairman Tony Fernandes put a tweet out that made us at the Open All R’s podcast rather excitable. Apparently feeling the need to defend himself, the chairman sounded off about the academy, development, young players and so on before signing off with a rather curious message, writing the following:

“Will appear on @QPRPodcast and with @IJTaylor81 so try and be as transparent as possible and give as many answers as we can”.

Now, this took us by surprise – and left us with a few questions: although we have a general, open, invitation for Fernandes to come on and give his side of the story, we had no specific requests in with the club for his time– so what was this all about? And why would he want Ian Taylor coming on with him (something we would never have agreed to in any case)? Why did he @ our old twitter address that we haven’t used for four years? And, lastly…did he actually mean the club’s own version of what we do, the Loftcast, but copied in us by mistake?

The answer to the last question was ‘probably’, although with it there is black and white, we decided to go for it.

We contacted a somewhat bewildered press department to point out the tweet and the co-chairman’s apparent desire to come on the podcast and then spent a number of weeks ironing out where and when it would happen. To give the departing Ian Taylor credit, he never tried to get Fernandes out of it, or to put it off until next season, both of which they probably could have done – instead, they just told us to wait for a date. Finally, the Monday after the Preston game, we received word that Tony was going to meet with us at the club in the days before the final home game of the season. And the message from Fernandes was clear saying, verbatim, – “Ask me anything – and I mean anything”.

And so it was that last Thursday myself, Paul Finney and Chris Charles turned up at the club for our allotted time and chatted with the man himself.

Going into it, I was curious. I have previous with high profile businesspeople like Fernandes - through my work I have known, advised and observed a few and on many occasions, I am the PR chap sitting in the corner just hoping to get the client out of there alive. As a result, I have picked up five main things that I tend to see quite often in these characters - and traits I was looking for in Fernandes:

1) Attention to detail – these guys always seem to know where every nut and bolt is in their business, displaying an amazing ability to reel off intricate facts about things you had never thought of. It’s impressive and often reassuring. And I have to say, Fernandes displayed a huge amount of recall, not just on the club but the division, football in general and the lower leagues, far more than many would credit him with.

2) Impatience – they almost always hate these interviews, are dreading them and want to get on with it and finish them quickly. Although they try to hide it, they often let their guard down by snapping at a question or picking up the interviewer on a point of detail. Fernandes passed here: I didn’t get the sense he had anywhere to be and was generous with his time, staying after we stopped recording to continue talking about the club and football. He was happy to talk.

3) What they ask others – These CEOs spend their lives being the centre of every conversation they are ever in and many don’t often make any effort to show interest in the people they are in the room with. Again, Fernandes passed here – he was warm with us, remembered our names, asked about our lives and so on. Now, maybe that was PR bluff but when I was leaving the stadium (a while after the interview had finished), I walked past the reception and Fernandes was goofing around and chatting with the security lads on reception. That doesn’t tell us anything about his ability as a chairman, but it tells you a little about his character.

4) How they deal with the question they don’t want asked – every CEO has a question they are dreading and are hoping wont come up in an interview. I felt for Fernandes this was going to be about Mark Hughes…and I think I was right. He didn’t answer those questions well, looking to Paul Morrissey (the PR guy on this occasion) every time he was mentioned and stumbled his way through it a bit. I think there is a story there that may well be told in more detail one day.

5) They kid themselves about the same thing – Every CEO since the beginning of time repeatedly tells an absolute whopper to anyone who will listen. It’s always the same whopper, they all tell it and in most cases, I think they believe it. It’s only eight words and if you haven’t guessed, it’s: “I don’t care what people think of me”. What they mean of course is: “I don’t care what people think of me more than I care about following my business plan, but it’s a pretty close run thing”. Fernandes fitted the template here: He said he didn’t care…and I didn’t buy it. I think he rather would like to be loved and perhaps there is nothing particularly wrong with that. It’s obvious the Twitter criticism stings.

So how do I think it went? I was satisfied with it. Myself and Paul and Chris felt the pressure with this one. We had over 150 questions submitted and we wanted to cover as much as possible – if Fernandes wasn’t to answer, then that was up to him but I didn’t want us to give him the opportunity to dodge a subject because we didn’t bring it up. I don’t think that happened. And we covered everything – the stadium, the FFP fine, Holloway, Warnock, Hughes, Les, Warren Farm, Old Oak…and of course what he thinks of his ‘Uncle Tony’ nickname.

What do I think of him? He’s a man who has made a lot of mistakes in the past seven years, spent a lot of money and has been responsible for decisions that have caused a lot of damage. He does appear to be owning those errors which is, well, better than him not owning them. Whether it’s through luck (the FFP fine meaning we have to now be sustainable) or judgement (finding the gem that is Lee Hoos), the club off the pitch does appear to be on a better footing now than it has for some time and let’s hope that continues. I personally found him to be committed, passionate and driven – and I found those to be authentic, not manufactured or phony, qualities. I believe he wants to get this right and I want to believe his motivating factor is success (and to be loved) and not money in and of itself. Of course, none of that means he is going to succeed or that he shouldn’t be held to the highest level of scrutiny by us QPR fans. But maybe it counts for something.

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The Twitter @QPRPod, @DavidEFraser, @PaulFinney1969, @ChrisCharles101, @TonyFernandes

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