NEC steals rival PRO to beef up marcoms

The NEC Group has hired Debbie Thomas, comms chief at rival exhibition manager Earls Court & Olympia Group, to the newly created role of director of marketing and public affairs.

The Birmingham-based company is currently facing criticism for losing its bid to host the 2006 Motor Show, for the first time in 26 years. The group has been accused of being too complacent in its bid, estimated to be worth £100m to the local economy.

It lost the bid last month, slumping into third place behind ExCel in London's Docklands, where the show will be held, and behind Earls Court, because it failed to raise the profile of the show, according to local paper the Birmingham Post.

Currently director of corporate affairs and planning, Thomas follows in the footsteps of former Earls Court CEO Andrew Morris, who joined the NEC Group as CEO last May and created the new NEC Group role, amalgamating marketing director and comms director posts.

Marketing director Christina Nicholson left to relocate to Dubai seven months ago and comms director Elizabeth Clifford has been made redundant after 15 years with the company. Morris said: 'Elizabeth felt she did not want to apply for the post because she does not have a marketing background and so took redundancy.'

Thomas will join within two months and will be responsible for comms, stakeholder relations, marketing and public affairs, a key part of the new role as the group prepares to lobby the Government to allow it to open a super-casino at the NEC site.

Earls Court & Olympia Group is already on the hunt for Thomas's replacement.

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