CAMPAIGNS: Financial PR - Ware-Lane's Claims Direct bid succeeds

Client: Simon Ware-Lane Holdings

PR Team: Gavin Anderson

Campaign: Purchase of rival Claims Direct

Timescale: From mid-August for four weeks

Budget: Undisclosed



Simon Ware-Lane owned five per cent of personal injury specialist

ClaimLine and wanted to purchase rival, Claims Direct.



In summer 2000, Claims Direct was in financial trouble having lost 95

per cent of its shareprice value following a spate of negative press

coverage and a DTI inquiry into its business practices.



The company, its management and the whole 'no win no fee' personal

injury business had lost credibility. Ware-Lane - an unknown with an

unusual background - was attempting a rescue.



Objectives



Gavin Anderson had a number of objectives. Ultimately the goal was to

help Ware-Lane secure control of the company.



Firstly, it was necessary to convince the Takeover Panel his rescue was

in the shareholders' best interests and then convincing the shareholders

to accept his offer. Part of the brief was also to rehabilitate the

personal injury business - Claims Direct had been dubbed 'Shames Direct'

by The Sun.



Ware-Lane and ClaimLine had to be seen to be offering a better business

model and more credible management. Gavin Anderson worked closely with

lawyers Ashurst Morris Crisp in handling liaison with the Takeover

Panel.



Strategy and Plan



The first task was to introduce Ware-Lane and his record to the

City.



Until the deal was approved by the Takeover Panel, no details of it

could be discussed, so the agency had little room for manoeuvre and the

first one-on-one briefings were mostly concerned with correcting

rumours.



After the deal was announced there was a campaign of intensive media

relations, with Ware-Lane encouraged to speak freely about his past. He

was positioned as a 'Barnado's Boy made good'.



The tactic was to allow his determination and feelings about the

socially-responsible nature of what he was doing, to come through.



In defending the personal injury business against charges of ambulance

chasing, the tactic was to pick up on the way Ware-Lane justified it,

and adopt his language. He said it was about 'giving people access to

justice', and highlighted the fact that the business filled a niche

created by the removal of eligibility for legal aid from these

cases.



Measurement and Evaluation



Gavin Anderson secured substantial personal coverage for Ware-Lane. In

the process, the ClaimLine business model and the personal injury

business were both recognised as legitimate.



Results



As a result, the deal went through and Ware-Lane acquired the

company.



Claims Direct retained Golin/Harris Ludgate but the account was resigned

shortly after completion of the deal and Gavin Anderson is among those

companies now pitching for the business.



In its choice of language and decision to suggest continuity between the

personal injury 'no win no fee' business and the decision to remove

eligibility for legal aid from such cases, the agency went a long way to

legitimising a business that many people had come to regard as

counter-productive and socially corrosive.



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