Smith & Nephew hires 3i PR veteran Hewitt

Smith & Nephew, the FTSE 100 medical devices company, has hired 3i PR veteran Liz Hewitt as group corporate affairs director as it seeks to bolster its reputation and take on US rivals Johnson & Johnson and Zimmer.

Hewitt spent 18 years at the venture capital giant, joining as internal comms manager, with the last four as corporate affairs director.

She left 3i last year on secondment to the Department of Trade and Industry, where she took a non-PR role as director of business services (PRWeek, 21 March 2003) until January.

Hewitt has eschewed a return to 3i for the S&N role, saying: ‘I wanted a new challenge in the comms arena.’ She joins on 4 May, reporting to chief executive Chris O’Donnell. 3i group comms director Patrick Dunne oversees her former duties.

Hewitt replaces Angie Craig in what she described as an ‘upgraded role’. Craig is relocating to Memphis, Tennessee, to spearhead S&N’s investor and media relations in the US.

S&N recently revealed a 29 per cent full-year profit increase to £230m on sales of £1.2bn, thanks to growing demand for replacement hips and knees from ageing baby-boomers.

However, sluggish growth in its endoscopy division after US hospitals were allowed to reuse disposable surgical blades prompted it to mount an aggressive PR campaign on the dangers of reusing blades.

The biggest risk to the group is product liability litigation. Last month it announced its intention to acquire hip replacement firm Midland Medical Technologies for up to £100m.

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