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Simon Samaan

42-year old Simon Samaan from Australia is a busy man. He founded Class Act Media in 2009 and his business empire has grown exponentially ever since. He now publishes two newspapers, has a radio station 89.5FM, and TV programmes.

Where are you from? And when did you move to Phuket? I’m from Sydney, Australia. I came here originally in 2007 on a sabbatical and then one thing led to another.

What made you decide to live here? I had sold my business in Sydney and wanted to treat myself, so I chose a holiday in Phuket. But you can only sit on the beach for so long without getting bored; after a while I started working for a company that reprinted international newspapers and from there I started publishing a small monthly magazine called The Phuketian. This eventually grew into the Phuket News and then the radio and TV outlets and the Russian-language newspaper.

Tell us about your business? Class Act Media initially started in 2009 with the monthly magazine. We did that for about a year and a half and from that grew the idea of Phuket News. I always thought that there was room for a multi-platform media company here, so things got going the first year with the Phuket News. It was obviously tough that first year, but I had a lot of faith in the idea and in 2011 we got started with the radio and at the beginning of 2013 the Russian-language newspaper and also the TV.
We have a lot of auxiliary things going on, for example Phuket Ticket Master which is the only online ticket engine in Phuket and we also publish a match guide for Phuket F.C. whom we sponsor. We also have the Phuket Colouring Book. Next year we’re seriously looking into going to Krabi and Chiang Mai with the radio and we’ll see where we go from there.

How is it, setting up business in Phuket?
Starting a business from scratch is tough anywhere. Phuket was especially so in terms of red tape and bureaucracy; obviously, you’re at a disadvantage as a foreigner starting a business here. My biggest challenge was finding the right staff because most people come here to work in the hospitality business. I’m blessed to have the team I have now – and most of them have been with us since the beginning.

Where do you live in Phuket?
I live on the outskirts of Phuket Town. I like the place and had always fantasised about going out to lots of places but it hasn’t quite turned out that way… Still, I like the vibe.

What kind of car do you drive?
I’ve just sold my car but I used to drive a Honda CRV. I’ve never been into expensive cars – a car for me just gets me from A to B. As a matter of fact, if there’s one sport I have no time for, it’s Formula 1. I just don’t get it!

What do you like most about living in Phuket?
I think Phuket offers something for everyone. If you’re looking for mod cons you can have them here, you can eat cheap if you want to, and there are nice beaches, good weather and Thai people are very polite and helpful. Coming from a heavily regulated place like Sydney, which is becoming almost a police state, I think Phuket offers a lot of freedom.

What’s the most stressful thing about living here?
All that red tape and the stifling bureaucracy especially for non-Thais; it’s so meaninglessly time consuming. I actually think that it’d be better if [the process] could be more choosy in allowing which non-Thais come to work here but easing up on the paperwork. I think Thailand would benefit a lot if they went down that path.

Do you have family here?
Yes, my wife is Thai and we have two children Jacob (four) and Gabriel (almost three).

What school do your boys go to? And what made you chose that school?
HeadStart International. I think Jazon (Edouard – CEO/School Director) has done really well. He started that school from scratch and it was always going to be tough competing, but Jazon comes across as someone who really cares about education and kids; my children are happy there.

What do you think the future holds for you?
I think the future is bright. I’ll be travelling overseas for the foreseeable future, but I’ll be coming back every couple of months. Jason (Beavan General Manager) will be taking over and he’s been with me from day one. I still think that there’s a lot of life left in print so we’re looking at a couple of other print products – possibly even a Thai newspaper.

How do you evaluate success?
I’m one of those people, sadly, who measures success by money. I’m an accountant so I look at the bottom line. In the first year and a half we were losing money but we’re profitable now, which is good. To be successful you need to be making money and we are – but I’d like to be making more! The fact that we've kept 90% of our core staff from the beginning I think is a real success story. Our staff members are extremely hard working.

What do you do with your free time if you have any?
I think that with two kids you don’t get that much free time. I play cricket at weekends but mostly I relax with my family.

Are you involved in any local charities?
We support pretty much all the local charities. We sponsor ‘Phuket Has Been Good to Us’ – we support just about all their events as well as ‘The Good Shepherd’ and once a year we give away 800 motorcycle helmets and repair motorbike lights as well as giving scholarships to kids.