Opinion: Leader - Chadlington proves his critics wrong

At the time of industry grandee Lord Chadlington's concert party acquisition of the then ailing Huntsworth marketing services group, there were some industry commentators who doubted that he would be able to turn the company around. It was a basket case, they said, in poor health financially and having not paid an interim dividend in over a decade.

Well 13 years to be precise. But that came to an end with his upbeat half-year results unveiled this week, so Chadlington can reflect on a job well done. As well as paying out to the shareholders who stuck with the group as he and his associates took over three years ago, Huntsworth has also nudged the operating margin at its subsidiary firms up closer to its 20 per cent target. Without the negative impact of what one source described as 'the dog of a year' that key component Harrrison Cowley has had, there is every reason to imagine that the 20 per cent target would have been met.

It is not an unblemished picture - the firm still has close to £8m of earnout payments to meet on historic acquisitions, and overall revenues were down fractionally year on year. But big clients are now signing up - Heineken, Starbucks, United Biscuits - suggesting that the product offering is at least lining up with client demand.

At 0.1p, the dividend per share is hardly huge - in fact, it is as small as a dividend can be without being scrapped. But its symbolic value goes beyond immediate cash. It says the firm is being nursed back to health, costs have been cut, some significant acquisitions have been made and there is every prospect of a rosier future.

That future looks less like the immediate past than one might suppose.

Critics have long argued that the string of minnow deals Chadlington has presided over (Stephanie Churchill PR, Woodside Communications, EHPR et al) are disproportionately expensive and time-consuming, and deliver only marginal benefit to the group's finances. So expect fewer of these in the coming months and years - expect fewer deals full stop. But when the deals do happen, expect a scale that the group has not yet attempted under its current leadership.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.