James Mason is a self-starter, a shrewd marketer, and a bold businessman. He is affable, approachable and warm.
So the agency has turned to a fresh, young face to steer them out of choppy waters and into the next decade.Nick Westby
He has got on in life through a combination of all of these traits, and – as he would admit himself – just a little luck.
The 41-year-old from Guiseley is the new chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, a post he takes up in January.
It is quite apposite that he starts as the page turns on the decade, because no company needs the phrase ‘new year, new start’ to ring true quite as desperately as the troubled tourism agency.
Welcome to Yorkshire was a shooting star for years, but the higher you rise the harder you fall, and the plummet since Sir Gary Verity’s resignation in March on health grounds, amidst allegations about expenses spending and bullying, has been damaging to the brand and its reputation.
So the agency has turned to a fresh, young face to steer them out of choppy waters and into the next decade.
James Mason might not be a name that reverberates around the most important private-sector boardrooms in the county, but in the worlds of media, sport business and tourism, it is a name that is highly regarded.
For Mason has been around for the best part of two decades. Firstly, as a reporter for Radio 5Live and television’s Final Score, then as a chief executive at Bradford City before a brief spell at Rochdale as a consultant chief executive.
Latterly, he has worked as chief operating officer for First Point USA, a company that places talented sports prospects on scholarships to American universities, a role which enabled Mason to travel the world and see first hand how regions market themselves.
Mason’s first full-time role after leaving university was as a UK sales manager for a bespoke joinery company before he set up his own business in the same sector, which he ran for 10 years, growing it into a nationwide operation.
He also launched the sports consultancy FIVENINE which works with former professionals, and founded a cafe for dementia sufferers in Bradford (Bradford Memories) as his mother lives with the condition.
If there is a theme to his career, it is one of putting himself out there and daring to take calculated risks.
When he wanted to become a sports reporter, he spent a few hours in the company of the godfather of Yorkshire broadcasters, John Helm, absorbing as much knowledge as he could.
To make the leap from sports reporter to an executive in sport, he sought the counsel of Brendan Flood, part owner of Burnley FC, who had just appointed former Bradford City CEO David Baldwin.
Mason put himself in front of Bradford’s then joint-chairman Julian Rhodes, agreed a short-term deal in 2014 and ended up staying for four years. By the time he left in 2018 amid the increasingly toxic reign of Edin Rahic, he was the club’s chief operating officer.
In his time at Bradford, Mason’s marketing know-how came to the fore. Bradford had already been pioneers in reducing rising season-ticket prices, but Mason took it to another level of fan engagement, orchestrating a spike in season-ticket sales from 11,000 to 19,000. Other successful initiatives included a scarf parade where every fan brought a claret and amber scarf for an FA Cup quarter-final with Reading, and he also introduced a volunteer programme at the club.
Mason’s appointment by Welcome to Yorkshire has been greeted with genuine warmth from within the sports media industry because he was such a well-respected executive at Bradford City.
Welcome to Yorkshire, though, is a step up the leagues.