Showbiz agent Jonathan Shalit
PUBLISHED: 11:25 19 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:42 20 February 2013
Jonathan Shalit, who grew up in Bosham, talks to Angela Wintle about the new woman in his life, the lengths he's prepared to go to become a father and Charlotte Church.
When I ring Jonathan Shalit at the appointed time he greets me with a warm hello, darling before asking me to hold. He then proceeds to type an email for two whole minutes while I stay on the line, before informing me with a theatrical flourish that I now have his undivided attention. You sense this is a man for whom there are never enough hours in the day.
But the gargantuan work load is entirely of his making. Shalit is a self-made man and one of the most successful entertainment impresarios in the UK, the force behind some of the biggest names in showbusiness. Singer Russell Watson, musician and TV presenter Myleene Klass, R&B singer Jamelia and hip-hop group N-Dubz are all part of the Shalit stable. He also straddles the worlds of television and acting, nurturing the talents of newsreader Kate Silverton, model and actress Kelly Brook, breakfast TV presenter Lorraine Kelly and actor and King of the Jungle Christopher Biggins.
But he will forever be associated with singer Charlotte Church, whom he snatched from obscurity and transformed into a worldwide star.
It all started in 1997 when he travelled to Cardiff to meet the 11-year-old Charlotte, her mother Maria and her singing teacher. As he remembers it, Charlotte stood next to the piano and burst into her audition song, Pie Jesu.
When I listen to singers, I close my eyes, because Im imagining what it would sound like on radio, he says, sitting at his desk in the open plan office of his London-based empire, Roar Global. It was like an adults voice, but when you opened your eyes there was this amazing child. It was a moment that just sent goosebumps up my back.
Shalit threw all his business expertise into promoting Charlotte, brokering her record deal with Sony and managing her introduction to America, where she sang for President Clinton. She also performed for the Queen and Pope John Paul II.
But relations famously turned sour when Charlottes mother dismissed him as manager. In a case that became headline news, Shalit sued the Church family and won a 2.3 million tax-free settlement from Sony Records, which wanted to minimise the negative publicity.
But you wont find Shalit bad-mouthing Charlotte. Charlotte Church is a remarkable talent and will still be famous on the day you die, he says. She has presence, beauty and intelligence. Shes Julie Andrews meets Audrey Hepburn. One day, when shes ready, she will make a comeback. At the moment, she has the money and influence to pursue her own dreams and do the kind of music she wants. Its not commercially working, but why not? Theres no rule that says you have to be a commercial success, if you enjoy what you do.
And what does he make of her latest album? I havent heard it.
Ironically, that settlement figure was the making of him, far exceeding what he was due to collect from the Church family in fees and enabling him to buy a stylish apartment off Kensington High Street. It also taught him valuable lessons. If I was still working with Charlotte, I couldnt be doing what Im doing now. Being fired forced me to re-evaluate my future.
Besides, these days theres another woman in Shalits life. Last October he ended 47 years of bachelorhood when he married 50-year-old clothes designer Katrina Sedley at the West London Synagogue, which was followed by a lavish party at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
I love being married, he says. Last Christmas, as I spent another year with my parents in Barbados, I found myself wondering why, at 47, it still hadnt happened and what might be wrong with me. But then last February, as I was driving down Sunset Boulevard during Oscar week, taking Myleene Klass to a meeting with television executives, I was struck by what can only be described as an epiphany.
For all the money Id made and the famous names Id launched, the one aspect of my life that made me happiest had absolutely nothing to do with my career and everything to do with the woman waiting to have dinner with me back at the hotel.
That woman was Katrina, whom hed met six years previously. Theyd enjoyed the odd dalliance, but whenever there had been even the vaguest suggestion of things becoming serious, Shalit had run away.
It had taken me until earlier that morning to realise what she meant to me. Id been struggling to make my computer work, getting irate, when she walked across our hotel suite at the Four Seasons, put her arms around me and with a few soothing reassurances quietly calmed me down. Something clicked. Here was this beautiful woman who understood me better than anybody else, and yet I wasnt prepared to commit. I felt utterly foolish.
Now, his whole life makes sense. I have an inner sense of calm and security that I just didnt have before. Waking up next to somebody who wants the best for me is brilliant. But the biggest surprise has been the love I feel for Katrinas daughters, Jessica, 23, and Sofia, 20, even though theyre not my children.
But therein lies the rub. For many years, Shalit felt unable to commit to Katrina because he desperately wanted children of his own and she was beyond child-bearing age. Has he come to terms with never becoming a father?
Ive come to partial terms with it. I love Katrina totally and made the decision to marry her whatever, and work the problems out afterwards. But it would be dishonest to say that I dont want children. I adore Katrinas daughters, but I havent got my own blood child and theres a male broodiness. When I think about it at length, it upsets me, but my love for Katrina is greater. I would love to consider surrogacy or adoption, but at the moment Katrina is saying no.
In the meantime, when they wish to take a break from their frenetic London lifestyle, they hunker down at the 600-acre family estate in Bosham, where Shalit spent much of his childhood.
I own a converted barn and visit once a month. Its my haven; its where I switch off and spend time with close friends. I also have seven cousins living on the estate, so its a bit like Dallas!
The family association with the area started in the mid 1930s when his grandfathers car broke down in Bosham while he was travelling along the South Coast. He stayed in the village overnight and just fell in love with the place, says Shalit.
Shrewdly, he bought the estate during the Phoney War of 1939 when property was cheap. But the familys entrepreneurism runs even further back. Shalits great-grandfather, David Gestetner, invented the stencil duplicator and silkscreen printing process, and his grandfather, Sigmund, transformed the family business into a global printing empire. Shalit, the son of a prosperous Jewish banker, has fond memories of growing up in Sussex particularly of sailing on the Solent and exploring the South Downs.
His parents, who naturally wanted the best for him, sent him to the best public schools that money could buy, but he loathed the stiff upper-lip attitude that prevailed at that time and rebelled by misbehaving.
He was moved from one school to another, until, finally, he was sent to a London day-school to do his A levels. For the first time, he felt at home and it was there that he developed a love of music, theatre and entertainment.
Richard Branson offered him a job at Virgin Records, but he reluctantly turned it down when his parents persuaded him to get a proper job as a Lloyds aviation insurance broker. Once again, he loathed the environment but escaped into advertising after persuading the window cleaner at Saatchi and Saatchi to take a note up to the chairmans office.
The window cleaner knocked on the window and handed over the note. It said look down. The chairman looked down and there, on the pavement, was Shalit, wearing a sandwich board that read: Young, creative and able. Please interview me. Naturally, he got a job.
Later, he started his own graphic design business, but simultaneously built up a music and entertainment company. His first successful artist was the 80-year-old harmonica maestro Larry Adler, with whom he made The Glory of Gershwin, a 1994 album of classic George Gershwin songs, featuring duets with pop singers, who included Sting, Elton John and Peter Gabriel. It sold two million copies.
All these years later, hes still working 15-hour days and hopes his company will be worth 25 million within a few years. So despite being happily married, theres no sign of him taking his eye off the ball. Now that I have extra mouths to feed, Im more focused than ever, he says.
You can find out more about Roar Global by visiting www.roarglobal.com
MY FAVOURITE SUSSEX
The Royal Oak in East Lavant. Its a gorgeous historic inn and serves terrific food. My favourite dish is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday.
The Anchor Bleu in Bosham High Street. Its right next to the water and affords the most idyllic view. I grew up in the pubs kitchen because the then landlords daughter taught me to row.
Bosham House of Fudge. Ive always been partial to a bit of fudge, mainly because when I was growing up in the village, a lady called Mrs de Pledge used to hand out homemade fudge to local children when they took a short cut through her garden.
The view from Bosham Quay. When you stand at the waters edge and look out, you imagine the scene must have been like that for thousands of years.
Place to visit:
Chichester Festival Theatre. My grandma, Hemmy Gestetner, was one of the co-founders. As a child, I used to watch shows from the wings and in recent years Ive had clients acting there.