Permira set to battle critics

Europe's best-known private equity firm is staging a PR fightback following a storm of negative publicity over the past few months.

Permira has appointed a new London-based global director of comms and has revealed plans to form its first in-house comms team.

The PR offensive has been prompted by a barrage of criticism. Trade unions have accused Permira of greed and asset stripping following its takeovers of vehicle breakdown firm AA and Birds Eye frozen foods. There is also mounting public concern that private equity firms are piling debt on the companies they operate and squeezing out employees.

The controversial private equity powerhouse is to respond to the attacks by developing a global comms function. It will promote Chris Davison from his current director of comms role to the newly created post. The firm is now on the hunt for a new head of ­comms to replace Davison. It will also hire an unspecified number of in-house PROs to work across Europe.

The new comms team is charged with pushing positive stories about job creation, productivity and private equity making the UK economy effective in a global environment.

Davison said: ‘It's clear to everyone who has been following the industry that there are significant communications challenges ahead and we will be building up our resources appropriately.'

He added that Permira would continue to use Bell Pottinger for public affairs work, but would not be drawn on whether the firm planned to bring in additional agencies for further work.

Before joining Permira in 2005, Davison was head of research at Almeida Capital, a corporate finance business that specialises in private equity. Prior to that, he was a reporter for the US news agency Bridge News.

Davison is credited with persuading Permira managing partner Damon Buffini to raise his head above the parapet with a number of media interviews last month. This week, Buffini met with the GMB union in a bid to deflect the criticism aimed at the company.

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