PROFILE: Tim Allan, BSkyB - The sky’s the limit for Allan. Tim Allan reached for the sky and is now corporate comms chief at BSkyB

In just over a month’s time, a 28-year-old will be in charge of corporate communications at BSkyB, the cable and satellite company 40 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and arguably Britain’s most controversial TV company.

In just over a month’s time, a 28-year-old will be in charge of

corporate communications at BSkyB, the cable and satellite company 40

per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and arguably Britain’s most

controversial TV company.



But Tim Allan, the 28-year-old in question, is Prime Minister Tony

Blair’s special press adviser and no stranger to controversy. His

appointment to BSkyB was itself spread across all the national

newspapers last week amid accusations of a ’revolving door’ between 10

Downing Street and the Murdoch companies.



The exact nature of Allan’s job at BSkyB is still being discussed, but,

as director of corporate communications, a new post reporting directly

to chief executive Mark Booth, it is likely he will oversee the

company’s day-to-day media relations as well as plan its longer term

corporate PR strategy.



Almost all of Allan’s professional life has been spent working for

Blair, interrupted only by a four-month stint as a researcher on Channel

4’s news and current affairs programme, A Week In Politics. He joined

Blair fresh from Cambridge five and a half years ago and followed him

through the Labour leadership campaign into opposition and, finally,

Government.



Yet Allan is avowedly not a political animal. Much has been made in the

press about his allegedly less-than-perfect Labour credentials: he hails

from Godalming, in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt and went to

an independent secondary school. What they have mostly failed to spot is

that he plays football for the Downing Street team, Demon Eyes, drives a

moped and lives in Labour-stuffed Islington.



More revealing is the fact that Allan has never been a grassroots party

activist. Although a party member since the age of 17, he was

politically inactive at university and his ambition has always been

commercial rather than political.



Derek Draper, a former aide to Peter Mandelson and now a consultant at

lobbying firm GPC Market Access, says: ’The difference with Tim is that

he doesn’t want to be an MP. He’s always believed in Tony, but at heart

he was always going to move into business’.



Some of the skills Allan has gleaned from his years at Millbank and

Westminster will no doubt be useful in his new job. He is clearly no

stranger to either hands-on media management or long-term presentational

strategy. His responsibilities have also involved managing people, like

journalists, politicians and party researchers, and he may find BSkyB’s

agenda, which includes its 200-channel digital satellite launch this

autumn, light relief compared to Robin Cook’s marriage or party funding

policy.



Jane Bonham-Carter, a TV producer and former Liberal Democrat head of

communication, who worked with Allan on Channel 4, says: ’Politics is a

very good training ground for corporate communications. Lobby

correspondents, some of whom are considerably older than Tim, are loyal

to him.’



But the Labour party is not an organisation primarily bound by

commercial imperatives and, although it is probably packed with

in-fighting, it may not equal the dog-eat-dog world of BSkyB. After all,

it was there that flamboyant former Sun editor and BSkyB managing

director at the time, Kelvin MacKenzie, famously clashed with his

successor, Sam Chisholm in 1994. MacKenzie - by all accounts not the

world’s smallest ego - resigned seven months after having been

appointed.



Whether Allan will be equal to the challenge of a profit-making

organisation remains to be seen. Several of his friends and former

colleagues testify not only to his ferocious intellect but to his mature

and unaggressive management style. These are characteristics which

should stand him in good stead. Still, the words ’tough’ and ’ruthless’

are conspicuously absent from accounts of his character.



Draper sums up Allan’s move: ’If he’s given good training and tutelage

at BSkyB he’ll learn it quickly. He knows that. But he’ll miss Downing

Street like crazy.’





HIGHLIGHTS

1992: Researcher for Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair

1994: Researcher, Channel 4

1994: Press adviser to the leader of the opposition

1997: Special adviser to the Prime Minister

1998: Director of corporate communications at BSkyB



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