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Lincolnshire farm boy turned down the opportunity to sign the Spice Girls

By East Lindsey Target  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

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In his new autobiography, multi-millionaire music mogul Chris Wright has revealed the story behind his rise from a Lincolnshire farm boy to one of the UK's biggest record label executives. Echo reporter Ed Grover spoke to the founder of the Chrysalis media group about the highs and lows of an incredible career.

Spandau Ballet, Blondie and Gnarles Barkley were among the biggest names signed to Chris Wright's music business Chrysalis between 1967 and 2010.

However, as the entrepreneur admits in his book One Way Or Another, he turned down some of the most successful artists of all time.

David Bowie, Dire Straits, The Kinks and the Spice Girls account for the biggest acts he missed out on.

And the massively successful musical Cats and TV show Popstars – the programme that evolved into The X Factor – topped other entertainment investment opportunities he rejected.

There were huge highlights for the Louth-born businessman, including winning 11 trophies in 11 years with the rugby club Wasps during his time as owner of the outfit between 1996 and 2008.

He also owned Queens Park Rangers, but describes his time at the helm, which resulted in the club being put into administration, as "one of the biggest disappointments of my life and one of the most high- profile failures of my career".

"When I was growing up in Lincolnshire, sitting on a tractor ploughing fields, I never could have imagined that my life would end up being so rich, so rewarding and so full of amazing memories," he said.

Mr Wright was born at Louth's hospital in 1944 and grew up in the nearby village of Grimoldby.

Although he says he has fond memories of the county, and in some ways it still "feels like home", he told the Echo his years in Lincolnshire were not always easy.

"It was a very hard life in the farming community of Lincolnshire in those days, but there were idyllic moments as well," he said.

"I remember sitting out in a tractor in the freezing cold ploughing fields, and in those days the tractors didn't have cabs on them, so there was no escape from the elements. It was bitterly cold."

Wright describes in detail the landscape of the county, its links with the RAF and its agricultural importance.

He was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School in Louth and recalls cycling to Lincoln to see its castle and cathedral.

He would also think nothing of completing a 35-mile round trip to and from Cleethorpes on his bike to watch Grimsby Town play.

One of his first jobs was as a part-time reporter on the Louth and District Standard newspaper and he had ambitions to become a sports or political journalist.

However, aged 18 he left for Manchester University, and the north western city's growing music scene – plus a position as social secretary booking pop groups for students – drew him down a different career path.

Several years later, a stint as a roadie gave him the inspiration to begin managing bands himself and a move to London in 1967 led to his partnership with Terry Ellis, with whom he launched Chrysalis.

The business, which signed Jethro Tull, The Specials and Billy Idol during Mr Wright's time in charge, was eventually sold to BMG Rights Management in 2010 for £107 million.

But he did miss out on signing some notable names, including Bowie, who Mr Wright said at the time was regarded as a "pop artist, not an act with any longevity".

And after his business partner Terry Ellis labelled the singer's Hunky Dory album as "disappointing", the pair decided not to sign him to Chrysalis Records.

The businessman, who now lives in Gloucestershire and London but travels back to Lincolnshire to see his sister, has mixed views about the current state of the music industry.

He accepts the influence of the internet and illegal downloads have impacted on how record companies make their money.

However, he believes the TV talent show phenomenon of the past decade could have "had its day".

Wright admits not investing in Popstars was a "mistake" and that it is a "goose that lays golden eggs" for Simon Cowell, but he says he does not know if he could have made a success of the format and dismisses the acts as not "real" artists.

"Most of them are people who come and go in six months, but not all of them – One Direction have obviously done phenomenally," he said.

"Most of the acts are very replaceable. Some of them disappear before you can blink your eyes."

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