JLLighting Chairman: Mike Wroe

Former Just Eat CFO, Mike Wroe joins the live events sector as Chairman of JLLighting. He speaks to TPi about the move and his thoughts on the future of the industry.

How did your work at Just Eat prepare you for a role within the live events sector?

“At Just Eat, I was part of the team that led the transformation of a start-up into a highly successful £4bn FTSE business operating in 15 countries. When I joined in 2008, there were just eight people based in the UK Edgware offices, and 25 in Denmark where the business was created. I was responsible for finance, legal, HR and anything else vaguely back office until 2013. Unusually for the CFO, I was also head of parties and events – a key element of our culture. Initially, I got involved to keep control of the bar bill, but as the business grew, we did some amazing team events, which was where I first encountered JLLighting in 2012. In 2014, I led the highly successful IPO of the business on the London Stock Exchange. We rapidly joined the FTSE250 and shortly after I stepped down, the FTSE100. It was an amazing ride over eight years and I was privileged to work with amazing people. I left in 2016 to return to working with young growth businesses as an advisor/mentor and now NED.”

What sparked your move into the events industry, especially during this trying time for the sector?

“I realised through the events we ran at Just Eat what a huge impact they can have in building teams and culture, so I have always had a strong interest in the industry. I have known Jack [Linaker, JLLighting Founder and Managing Director] since 2012. After I left Just Eat, he kept in contact and last year reached out for a chat and some advice given the challenges emerging from COVID-19. What I loved about those early discussions is that JLL were seeing the longer-term opportunities from the changes the industry was going through and the ability to combine their skills in events and TV to create something unique.  I love helping businesses grow and working with great people, so inevitably I joined the JLL team as Chairman.”

How has JLLighting handled the effects of COVID-19?

“Television was not affected as harshly as the live entertainment industry so, after the initial shock, we have been very fortunate in being able to maintain revenue and investment, seeking to redeploy our events people where possible and look to the future. Being able to continue delivering top TV shows for the BBC and others, such as Top Gear and Comic Relief, and working with our partners on Strictly Come Dancing, has kept the team together and busy. We’ve even brought new people on board in the past year as we plan for the upswing in events that will present a whole new set of exciting challenges, as clients want interesting, hybrid events that are safe but genuinely exciting.”

What are the company’s plans for the next few months?

“Broadcast events are something we are very keen to develop. Client and audience expectations and the way in which they consume media and content have evolved massively since the pandemic. This change has radicalised the boundaries and expectations of what a ‘live experience’ delivers for audiences. I’m very excited about working with the team to deliver growth through exceptional broadcast, live and digital experiences for our clients.”

Do you foresee others like yourself from outside the industry moving into the sector as the world returns to normality?

“I think the pandemic has created opportunities for many individuals and businesses and we are likely to see a cross fertilisation of skills from different sectors as the world opens up again. There is a real chance for us all to reimagine the way we interact and deliver events and I think fresh eyes coming into an industry can only be a good thing. I have been a large customer to the events industry for many years and hopefully can help bring a client view as we develop new products.”

What advice would you give to those following in your footsteps?

“Work hard and be prepared to give anything a go but always treat others as you would want to be treated. It’s a very small world and it’s amazing how often someone you helped along the way turns up to help you later on.”

This article originally appeared in issue #261 of TPi, which you can read here.