M: to assist embattled private equity firms

The trade body representing private equity firms, the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA), has brought in an agency to manage media coverage around an independent report that it has funded.

Buffini: called before Treasury Select Committee
Buffini: called before Treasury Select Committee

M:Communications is advising on next week’s publication of the Walker Report. The agency will attempt to use this report to stem the tide of negative coverage of private equity firms by widening the debate to the ­economic, political and pensions media.

‘Part of the role is to highlight the independence of the report itself,’ said M: co-founder Nick Miles.

Sir David Walker, a senior adviser at Morgan Stanley and former Bank of England director, heads the working group created by the BVCA. He will set out his introductory findings next week ahead of a three-month consultation period. Walker personally appointed M:.

His findings will have a ­serious impact on the disclosure policies of private ­equity firms, and could result in further business for UK PR agencies.

The industry has attracted growing levels of criticism in the last year over its business practices. Unions have attacked it, particularly over pensions, and the issue of how much tax private equity firms pay featured in the Labour deputy leadership contest. The BVCA has amassed a £1m PR war chest to redress the balance of coverage.

The media and public outcry culminated last month in a Treasury Select Committee hearing attended by chiefs of the major equity firms, including Permira managing partner Damon Buffini.

During the two-hour grilling from MPs, Unite assistant general secretary Paul Talbot argued private equity should be forced to give the same public disclosure as listed companies. The BVCA’s chief executive Peter Linthwaite resigned after a much criticised performance in front of the committee.

Publicity over private equity’s role in the economy has now spread well beyond City sections of newspapers. At last month’s Glastonbury festival, the GMB union ­organised a demonstration.

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