Ellis Watson is CEO of DC Thomson, the Scottish media group. He previously headed Simon Cowell’s joint venture with Sony and turned around the legendary Greyhound Bus business.
Ellis’ first break came as Marketing Director at The Sun, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch. He then became CEO of Celador International, licensing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to 100 countries and overseeing 130 branded consumer products before being lured back to Fleet Street as MD of Mirror Group Newspapers.
After a spell with Menzies, Ellis next accepted an invitation to join the board of FirstGroup, the world’s biggest privately owned public transport operator. They parachuted him into Ohio to address the ailing fortunes at Greyhound. Founded in 1914, it was a $3bn concern with 3,400 bus stations, 17,000 buses and 27,000 employees; but it was broken and losing share to internal airlines. Within 14 months Ellis had re-equipped the fleet, rejuvenated the brand and reinvented the culture. Greyhound is now building a reputation for safety, reliability, comfort and service.
In his current role at DC Thomson, Ellis is steering a traditional firm that’s been family run for six generations into a future-proofed organisation. He’s shed a third of the staff, increased turnover at the papers and moved The Beano, part of the fabric of the company, from print to digital.
In presentations, Ellis argues that a significant external shock like recession can be a springboard for positive change. He shows how to inspire passion when under pressure, and how to progress from mission statements to true company culture embracing quality, integrity and diversity.