It would be hard to think of a more appropriate song than Rod Stewart's The Rhythm of My Heart to kick off one of private radio's most extraordinary new ventures and the founding of a chain of stations so successful that an international media empire bought them out.

When that song came across the airwaves on May 6, 1991, it marked the beginning of a new generation of radio here and a noise which turned out to be the sound of pure success.

This behind-the-scenes glimpse into the founding of the business which turned into a gold mine for its appropriately named co-founder is one of the more interesting tales of business and until now the story has been shared only among the staff.

Doug Gold dedicates this book to the 49 people who set up the Wellington and Christchurch More FM stations.

The book concentrates on the radio stations' founding and spends little time on what happened next. What is not said in the book is that after handing over their network to CanWest Global Communications for $33 million in 1997, Gold and his almost improbably named wife, Anemarie St Ledger Higgins, went to live in France, enjoying the fruits of their success.

They are now back in Wellington, where Gold runs a consultancy business, Persuaders Concepts.

Gold, aged 52, appears on the National Business Review's Rich List annually, valued at around $24 million.

The founding in 1991 of the More FM network is one of private radio's many colourful stories. The stations' genesis was in the pioneering Radio Windy, the Wellington-based station then owned by Brierley Investments' SoundWaves Corporation.

Gold, from Temuka in South Canterbury, was managing director of Radio Windy ("another book in itself") and about a year after leaving he established More FM, along with partner Craig Thompson, formerly of Brierleys.

The Government had put the airwave frequencies up for public tender and Gold and his team won, with the aptly named Whanna Lysents. The chain started as a single Wellington venture which spread to eight stations nationally, then drew international attention, eventually being taken over by CanWest.

Long before Rod Stewart's song played, the entrepreneurial More FM staff had already pulled in $1.7 million in advertising sales, in advance of switching on the first microphone. The core management team was Chris Muirhead as general manager, Lyn Chung as accountant, Chris Byrnes as programme director and Dean Brain as production manager.

The More FM founders had been to court, battled and beaten a giant company that sought to shut them up and take their money. Before the station went to air, Gold and Thompson, had to fend off an 11th-hour attack mounted through the courts by Brierley Investments, which sued for $3 million, took out an injunction to prevent transmission and alleged breaches of fiduciary duties and trust by Gold and Thompson.

The allegations were eventually withdrawn and More FM went to air, with its winning, broad-appeal formula of music-based adult contemporary programming.

One of Gold's hallmarks was taking dozens of employees overseas on holiday to reward them for their hard work. He notes that the cost of these trips was relatively small compared to the loyalty it generated.

The amount of fun Gold and his colleagues had must be read about to be believed, but this reviewer was there for much of it and can attest to the book being a true and accurate record of those times (my brother, Chris Byrnes, then programme director for More FM, now runs a radio business in Canada).

To his credit, Gold does not shy away from telling of his failures as well, such as the disastrous takeover of FM Country in Auckland, losing $1.8 million before the renaming to Channel Z and reformatting. The takeover resulted in the audience halving. It should have worked, according to all the programming advice, but it was based on an American formula targeted towards fans of contemporary country and western - a market which simply did not exist here.

The book is marketed as a "common-sense and practical approach to business". Nothing about those days was particularly common sense. The story is strong enough in itself, without the need to seek a wider audience by pretending to be a guide to starting a business.

Gold concludes the More FM story on a high note: "Whatever the future holds for me, nothing will ever match or replace this period of my life. Words, unfortunately, are totally inadequate."

Hazard Press


* Anne Gibson is the Herald's property editor.