Hastings music mogul given honorary degree

Simon Fuller
Simon Fuller

A local boy who went on to become one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs received a top honour from the University of Brighton.

Simon Fuller, 54, who went to Hastings Grammar School and whose father was headteacher of Blacklands School, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of his major contribution to business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

He flew into Brighton by helicopter last Thursday (July 31) to receive his award.

Mr Fuller is credited with steering the career of David Beckham and founding a management firm representing Britain’s tennis No 1 Andy Murray, Formula 1’s Lewis Hamilton and cycling’s Sir Bradley Wiggins.

At the ceremony he was also recognised for his associations with charitable initiatives including Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Save The Children, The Prince’s Trust, The United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and Comic Relief. He is also a founding trustee of Malaria No More.

Mr Fuller, who also studied at Hastings College (now Sussex Coast College), offered advice on how graduates can make their dreams become reality and outlined how he started out. He said: “I used to love music and had a passion for it but sadly I found out early I couldn’t play an instrument and didn’t really sing that well. I had an affinity with music and musicians and I thought well, maybe I could be a manager.”

He started managing local bands but was not immediately successful. He worked as a hotel kitchen porter in Eastbourne and as a waiter in London and then ‘hustled and tried to meet people’.

Carol Burns, the university’s registrar and secretary, said Mr Fuller’s artists included Annie Lennox, Kelly Clarkson, Amy Winehouse and Will Young.

He grew up to the sound of The Beatles and set up a music club at school in Hastings, buying and selling records and later representing bands. Still a schoolboy, he was responsible for The Clash and The Pretenders appearing on Hastings Pier.

By the age of 22 he was talent spotting for Chrysalis Records and three years later set up on his own, building a portfolio of talent including the Spice Girls.

He launched the TV show Pop Idol and his American Idol show became the top-rated in the US for 10 successive years. With sponsors donating to charity for every vote cast in another TV show, Idol Gives Back, a total of $185 million has been raised for causes such as Save The Children, The Global Fund and Malaria No More.

Mr Fuller told graduates: “If you follow your intuition then trust me, it will work, you’ll be better at everything. I have been lucky enough to do what I love to do. Value every day, make the most of every day. Every day is precious, don’t waste it.”

Ms Burns said: “Simon’s is not a rags-to-riches story but one of a young man from a then sleepy coastal town who was not afraid to take on the most powerful forces in his world.”