Why Yorkshire 'theatre doctor' Paul Gregg has simple motivation to keep working into his 80s: Chris Burn

One of the best parts of my job is having the chance to speak to fascinating and highly-successful individuals about their careers, lives and motivations.

The latter topic is always one that interests me, particularly when it comes to people who have made their fortunes and don’t need to continue working but are still very much driven to.

One person who I have interviewed recently who very much falls into that category is ‘theatre doctor’ and live entertainment impresario Paul Gregg.

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'Theatre doctor' Paul Gregg is publishing an autobiography about his extraordinary life.'Theatre doctor' Paul Gregg is publishing an autobiography about his extraordinary life.
'Theatre doctor' Paul Gregg is publishing an autobiography about his extraordinary life.

Coming from an ordinary background in Yorkshire, Gregg built Apollo Leisure Group into the UK's biggest theatre owner and largest independent family run cinema chain in the UK.

When it came to theatres, Gregg and his team had a simple but winning formula – take over ailing venues, restore them to former glories and put on hit shows.

His many achievements including the painstaking £14m restoration of London’s famous Lyceum theatre, followed by making it the long-term home of The Lion King on the West End.

That famous show has been seen by millions at the Lyceum since it opened in 1999 – the same year that Gregg sold Apollo to US corporation SFX for £158m.

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Gregg, who spoke to The Yorkshire Post ahead of the publication of his fascinating autobiography Backstage Without A Pass, still rues going through with the deal.

That was not particularly from a financial perspective – although he believes his company could have been worth $500m today if it hadn’t been sold – but more from the fact that he was giving up control of the empire of famous theatres he had lovingly restored.

He bought back the cinemas in 2004 and also became a co-owner in Everton football club alongside fellow theatre impresario Bill Kenwright in the early 2000s.

The latter experience was not an especially happy one as the two men fell out over whether the club should move to a new stadium – something Gregg thought then and still believes now would have been transformational for Everton.

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Closer to home, he was also a key player in the reopening of Scarborough Open Air Theatre in 2010 in his home town.

Now in his 80s, Gregg is still very much a working businessman and is in advanced talks about the potential creation of two potential new tented theatres with capacities for 2,000 people in Ireland and southern England.

He eventually aspires to bring a similar version of the ‘Coliseum’ concept he is pursuing to Yorkshire.

It sounds very ambitious but given his track record, not something you would bet against happening.

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Not only that, he also says he also been in discussions about bringing an Indian Premier League team to England to play a cricket match.

To the question of why he was keeping himself so busy at a point in life when most people are slowing down (unless they are running to become US President), after some thought Gregg gave a very straight-forward response.

"I’m not one for sitting at home watching TV,” he said.

Sometimes motivations can be simpler than you think.

Chris Burn is Business and Features Editor for The Yorkshire Post

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