A Summer of Luxury | Luxury Leader William Woodhams, CEO of Fitzdares

In this regular series, we meet a senior executive of a Walpole member brand to discover their big break, their greatest achievement to date, and what they’d be doing in a parallel life. This week: the new CEO of Fitzdares, William Woodhams, on his plans for the world’s finest bookmakers AND the summer…

William Woodhams joined Fitzdares as CEO just a month ago, but has 200 years of family racing history, including a triple crown winner in 1865. He attended Durham University and worked for LVMH for six years, was CMO of French Connection group for three, and then consulted on various projects, including the launch of Battersea Power Station; the re-launch of the Pirelli Calendar; Krug Island; and the launch of the new Annabel’s.

What does British luxury mean to you?
We are an island, we think differently. Beyond craftsmanship and tradition there is an innate bonkers genius in what we do.

What was your big break?
Stephen Marks (CEO, French Connection) made an unknown and untested 30 year old his Global CMO – lunacy.

What’s your vision for Fitzdares?
Make the experience better for more.

What do you consider your greatest achievements?
At LVMH, it was re-igniting the on-trade for luxury products. At French Connection, it was the 100p we put on the share price with a man with a beard. And finally, bringing a diverse and relevant Pirelli Calendar to the world.

What’s your smartest business idea you have ever had?
Finding talent outside of the traditional places. Using Mick Jones for a Champagne festival, a bearded farmer for a fashion brand, and Ridley Scott for a documentary, made brands talk in a different way.

What is your guiding principle?
Don’t pretend you know your consumer. Execute everything as perfectly as possible: true creative thinking rarely fails; and give people what they want.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
EOP – it’s horrid but necessary. Keep it simple – too much noise as it is.

What do you most value in your friends?
I would love to say honesty but actually humour and love is all you really need in life.

In a parallel life, what would you be doing?
A raconteur or a producer on the Bond franchise.

What piece of advice would you give someone entering the luxury industry now?
I would say ‘honesty’ but it sounds trite. If something is exceptional and it makes you happy then you’re 90% there. Propriety, simplicity, creativity and execution will never fail to inspire.

Holiday with…

What is your favourite holiday destination?
Ibiza and Tuscany. Tuscany for one of the Palio’s, a truly magical sporting spectacular. Ibiza is best at the closing weekend, it’s the end of the summer, there are less tourists and the clubs are going out with a bang.

What is your top tip for surviving the summer in style?
Diary planning. Plan days where you need to be smart and then pick appropriate locations. Then on internal meeting days, wear linen shirts but not shorts. At Goodwood this year I wore a very lightweight blue tweed jacket, which was cooler than a blazer.

Have you ever had a ‘lightbulb’ moment related to your business or career while taking some downtime?
All the time. You cannot noodle on an idea in the office. If you can totally switch off on holiday you will have an abundance of creativity which always leads to problem solving at speed… All my carer changes (only three) have been planned in the sun.

What is your holiday read this year?
‘In your Defence’ by Sarah Langford – gripping true stories from a young barrister – I’ve bought 10 copies for friends. I listen to fiction on Audiobooks, read non-fiction and listen jointly to podcasts, while travelling, with my wife. The Fitzdares Podcast is coming in Autumn; the racing world needs it.

What is your favourite al fresco location for drinks/dinner?
My favourite topic. For Breakfast, it’s the terrace at George on Mount Street, it’s wonderfully quiet and you see some characters passing. Lunch in the new garden at Annabel’s – currently it’s like being on holiday somewhere more glamorous and hot than London. For drinks it’s the office local, the Ladbroke Arms, although people have started fainting from the heat. For dinner it’s Ostuni in Queen’s Park, we’re not local but are happy to drive if we can sit in the mews; or near to us, it’s Chucs on Westbourne Grove which has the most idyllic secret garden.