Client: Phoenix Consortium
Campaign: Media relations surrounding bid for Rover
PR Team: Ludgate Communications
Timescale: 14 April - 9 May
On Friday 28 April, talks with car manufacturer BMW and venture capital
group Alchemy regarding the latter’s bid for Rover collapsed, leading to
fears that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost. Phoenix, a
consortium headed by former Rover chief executive John Towers, had
previously been refused the chance to bid because of inadequate
financial backing. Ludgate was appointed by Phoenix on 14 April to
handle all media enquiries.
Following the collapse of the Alchemy talks Phoenix was able to step up
its bid for Rover. Phoenix’s leading financial adviser Albert E Sharp
Securities is a client of Ludgate Communications and recommended the
agency to the consortium.
Ludgate’s primary role was to communicate two key messages to the media:
that Phoenix would safeguard a high number of jobs; and that it would
continue to produce a high volume of cars. The agency was charged to
handle all media enquiries leading up to the start of the bid, and
following the announcement.
Ludgate was also responsible for conveying that Phoenix had sufficient
financial backing, but that no details could be divulged. The agency
also had to divert media enquiry away from the Phoenix Consortium
itself, allowing it to concentrate its efforts on its bid.
Strategy and Plan
The agency communicated information to the national and relevant
regional press, as well as broadcasters. It provided background details
of the members of the consortium, its plans to retain the majority of
employees at the Longbridge plant, and to continue to produce high
numbers of cars.
This was in contrast to Alchemy, which had planned to make up to 5,000
staff redundant at Longbridge and to only make cars for a niche
Alchemy’s negotiations with Rover had been exclusive, so when the news
broke on 28 April that talks had collapsed, Phoenix was suddenly in the
limelight and Ludgate was swamped with calls from the media.
On 8.30am on Tuesday 9 May, news broke that Phoenix’s bid had been
successful, and that it had bought Rover for a nominal pounds 10. This
prompted an even greater deluge of media interest within half an hour of
Towers and the rest of the consortium were on their way from London to
Longbridge so were unable to address the media personally.
Ludgate orchestrated a press conference at the Rover plant for 2pm which
was attended by hundreds of journalists. Phoenix has not gone into any
detail of its financial backing although there is much media speculation
as to what this entails. However, it was established that BMW agreed to
grant Phoenix a pounds 500 million ’loan’.
Aside from handling media enquiries, Ludgate has also received faxes and
e-mails from private individuals and companies wishing to support
Phoenix, which it has forwarded to the consortium.
Measurement and Evaluation
Ludgate Communications were able to handle all media interest in the
Phoenix Consortium. Media coverage was gained universally across the UK
in all media. The two key messages appeared to have been effectively
communicated to the media, although no formal media analysis has yet
The media coverage for the most part seems to have portrayed Phoenix in
a positive light - the consortium’s intentions to retain higher numbers
of staff and to produce a high-volume output are apparent in a lot of
coverage. However, some commentators continue to express doubts about
Rover’s long-term future.
Phoenix is in talks with motor giant Honda to sell 49 per cent of Rover
to the company. It has also been announced that showroom prices for
Rover models will be cut by 12 per cent in a bid to secure a long-term
future for the manufacturer. Ludgate is continuing to work for the