Following the recent death of industry veteran Richard Copley-Smith, industry figures have been paying tribute to the man who made an indelible impact on their lives and careers.
His family told EN: “We are immensely proud of the impact and vision our father brought to the exhibition industry.”
Tim Etchells, MD, SME London
I’ve known Richard as a very good friend and a business partner for over 35 years. He invited me to join him soon after he’d started a business called Finance & Investment Events which had launched the Money Shows and we took the business from one show to five shows in two years! We sold it in its third year and Richard helped me to have my biggest payday to-date: £500k!
Even though we never worked directly with each other again, he was always there when I needed advice and sometimes when I didn’t!
I will always remember him as a big man, not just in a physical sense but big of heart and full of vision and packed with love. Richard was one of a kind, he was unforgettable and irreplaceable.
Trevor Foley, MD, tfconnect
For those around the industry in the 80s, 90s & early noughties, this is an ‘empty stomach’ time. Such was Richard’s presence in our industry that it is a real marker for the end of an era.
Richard was brilliant, lovely, imposing, tough and, most of all, scary! So many people have so many RCS stories. He was a tower of strength for the AEO and the whole industry when it most needed it. My favourite RCS motivational moment is one repeated by others as well me. During one lively, divided opinion, AEO Board meeting, Richard looked at me as the AEO MD and calmly said “If you don’t want to be everyone’s pissing post, then don’t do the job”. Nuff said!
Richard Hease, chairman, World Media Group
It was 40 years ago, pretty much to the month, that I met Richard Copley-Smith for the first time. I was a young owner of a publishing company with a title called Which Computer?
A few of our advertisers suggested I launched an exhibition but I had no clue what to do. Someone at the NEC suggested I contacted Richard who was running a company called Clapp & Poliak. He is, I was told, a reliable and honest organiser.
Who is the audience and who are the exhibitors?” he immediately asked me. Well that’s obvious – my magazine’s readers and advertisers. “How many companies will exhibit? How many visitors will you achieve? What will make them come? These were the start of a zillion questions – questions I still ask today when thinking about an event.
We opened the show in January at the NEC. We had sold 5,000 square meters. It snowed on the first day but still we managed to attract 20,000 visitors. I thought that was normal. Clearly, Richard thought it was exceptional as he invited me to meet his owner, Saul Poliak, in New York.
I travelled my first transatlantic trip (business class) with British Airways to meet Saul. He and Richard took me to one of those clubby New York restaurants and said he wanted to buy my newly-launched show. How much did I want for it?
Well, frankly, I never knew shows had a value but worked out how much in debt my business was, doubled that and asked for that. When they said yes, I wondered if I had sold too soon. Years later Richard accused me of always selling shows too early and he always said I should ask for a residual. (Which Computer Show went on to sell 50,000sqm).
In the coming years, we plotted shows, magazines, discussed ideas. He was always honest, asked all the right questions and kept me from launching some that would have been disasters – not that I haven’t had those as well. I’ve probably launched or been involved in the launch of close on 100 events in the last 40 years. His words of wisdom continue to live in the background of all of those. He was, as the man said, a great organiser.
Chris Hughes, CEO, Brand Events
Without Richard there would have been no Brand Events. Or to be more accurate it wouldn’t have lasted more than 6 months.
He was our biggest investor and our chairman when we started. Tim Etchells introduced me to the mysterious legendary man. He was scary, charming, shy and brilliantly intelligent. He was the smartest mentor ever. Capable of unpicking any problem and seeing any weakness in an otherwise foolproof plan. Beneath the scary exterior of his blunt speaking and fierce intellect there was a shy kind and caring man. He was like an exhibition version of Aslan.
I was once in the middle of negotiating to sell my first show and Richard suggested I asked for something. I told him I didn’t think that seemed reasonable. The phone went silent. Twenty seconds later he bellowed at me down the phone…
“Why the fucking hell do we have to be reasonable?”
It was one of the great privileges of my career to work with him.
Simon Kimble, chairman, Clarion Events
RCS (as we all knew him) was both fearsome and fearless. He possessed a razor sharp brain with an annoying attention for detail – and he made his feelings clearly known! Yet he had a kindness and generosity of spirit that inspired you to achieve great things. A most humble but hugely influential voice for our industry for many years. I (we all) owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Rest in Peace RCS.