An outsider’s evaluation of Chris Cary – by John Fleming
There have been few individuals in the history of radio that have split opinion the way Chris Cary did/still does.
Some refer to him as nothing better than a bully; others believe him to be an out and out genius. In some cases the differing opinions can come from the same person.
There does seem to be a noticeable split though – between those who worked for/with him and those who didn’t, with one or two very noticeable exceptions.
Cary appeared to scold his staff in the same way a disapproving parent might do – the words: ‘You’re fired’ serving as a metaphorical slap on the wrist. But many of them recognise that this was his way of pushing them, to get the best out of themselves and ultimately to make the radio station the best it could possibly be.
“Right place, right time.”
“Anyone could have done what he did, he just had the money to put it in place.”
A sample of the type of opinions offered that attempt to play down his achievements. But every successful leader has had a personal drive and determination that separates them from others.
The sense of loyalty from so many of the people who worked at Radio Nova resonates to this day. Every year, on the anniversary of his passing, tributes that are sincere and heartfelt eulogise him.
That’s not to play down those who do have less than favourable opinions of him, although in many cases there are reasons why those opinions are held.
To switch to another great passion of mine, with apologies, Manchester United finished season 2012/13 at the top of the league in England, the 13th title in 20 unprecedented years of success. The man at the helm at that time, Alex Ferguson, shares a lot of similar traits and characteristics with Chris Cary. A stubborn streak that sometimes was to his detriment; a dogged determination and steely resolve which he was able to transfer onto his players, players who remain loyal to him to this day despite accusations of him being a bully, including one or two who have very legitimate claims of having been bullied by him.
The following season that team of champions finished in seventh place. The difference was the manager. Ferguson had retired and David Moyes – a man with a very similar background to Ferguson – had taken over. Steering a great team to be a bunch of winners is not so easy after all.
Moyes was not Ferguson.
Nobody else was Chris Cary.
It was not just that Cary had money that made Radio Nova what it was, nor was it a simple case of right place, right time. Both helped, but to suggest that anyone else could have achieved what he did in the same circumstances is to play down the influence a strong leader can have. And seriously downplays the legacy of a great radio man.