I was really saddened today to hear that Frank Herman passed away on March 30th 2009. “Big Frank”, as he was affectionately known, was a major figure in the early days of the video games industry. As one of the founders of Mastertronic (with Martin Alper and Alan Sharam) he pioneered budget video game sales in the UK and the company also became the exclusive European distributor for little known Japanese gaming systems the Sega Master System and Sega Megadrive (Genesis to you Yanks).
Mastertronic (and its Sega distribution rights) were sold to Virgin in a deal which saw the founders of Mastertronic continue their involvement and it was while Frank Herman was working with Virgn Games that I was fortunate enough to first encounter him. I was Development Manager at the then fledgling SCi whose games were being distributed by Virgin Games. Over lunch and in meetings I got to know Frank who was not just a hard-nosed & savvy business man but also a man whose hand-shake was his bond. He was a real pleasure to do business with and a font of wonderful industry stories relating to the early days of the games industry.
Sega eventually sought to take control of their own destiny by buying back the distribution rights to their consoles from Virgin Games. Again Frank was integral to the deal and part of the package for the new Sega operation, taking on the role of Managing Director of Sega Europe. In later years he moved on to head up GT Interactive’s European operation and, despite retiring several times, continued his involvement in the industry by assisting various start-up companies as well as consulting for the big players.
Frank was an inspiration to work with and a wonderful person to be around. He was a deal-maker of the highest order and I am sure he will be missed by many.