Ellis Watson

Ellis Watson

Executive Chairman, DC Thomson Publishing


Ellis headed a national newspaper business, turned around the Greyhound Bus operation in the US and ran Simon Cowell’s Syco corporation before he took over the Scottish media group. In his barn-storming speeches, brimming with humour and original thinking, Ellis shows how you can inspire enthusiasm throughout the organisation and move from mission statement to fighting spirit: “There’s no point in waiting and hoping for a wave, go and create one yourself.”


Ellis Watson is Executive Chairman and former 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 in to 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 (starting with mystery shoppers and training camps). Greyhound is now building a reputation for safety, reliability, comfort and above all service.

In his current role at DC Thomson, Ellis has steered a traditional firm that’s been family run for six generations into a future-proofed organisation. He’s shed a third of staff, increased turnover at the papers and moved The Beano, part of the fabric of the company, from print to digital. The company has also expanded taking control of brightsolid, an IT and data centre business.

In presentations Ellis argues that external shocks and disruption 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.

Ellis is known as one of the most inspiring and intelligent keynote speakers in Britain. He’s also hugely entertaining. Amongst a wealth of stories from his varied career, after dinner he might reveal how he expertly delivered some unwelcome news to Donald Trump.

© Copyright 2018 JLA. All rights reserved.

Agent Recommendation

If you want a speaker to spout the latest management theory, don't book Ellis. If you want enthusiasm and practical tips to equip your team for the challenge, you can’t do better. Ellis has been entrusted with turning around sizeable outfits, so when he talks about reigniting the passion in an organisation you know his words aren’t hot air. He really has been there and done it. JLA Agent Tom Mclaughlin

More Recommendations


On Making a Difference within your Organisation

Ellis Watson - Igniting Passion