While attending Edinburgh University, Jamie Byng ran a funk, reggae and rare groove night named Chocolate City (after the Parliament classic) at The Venue.
After graduating, he convinced Scottish publisher Stephanie Wolfe Murray to give him a job at Canongate, then a respected but still somewhat marginalised Scottish company founded in 1973. When Canongate was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1994, Byng, then in his mid-20s, instigated a buyout, aided by his business partner Hugh Andrew, his stepfather (former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland) and then father-in-law (co-chairman of the multinational investment bank Salomon Smith Barney).
His first move in overhauling the company’s image was to establish the ultra hip Payback and Rebel Inc imprints, dedicated to championing cult authors. The Pocket Canons (1998) published in partnership with Matthew Darby was Byng's first runaway success: selected books from the Bible individually packaged with new introductions by the Dalai Lama amongst others. In the wake of the two-million selling, Booker-winning Life Of Pi, Canongate won Publisher Of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2003, reportedly posting pre-tax profits of more than £1 million for that year.