Profile: Brian Basham, Warwick Corporate: PR man who’s up for a fight - Brian Basham faces 1997 with expansion, instead of libel suits, on his mind

1997 could be the year Brian Basham finally shrugs off the tag of ’former British Airways PR consultant’.

1997 could be the year Brian Basham finally shrugs off the tag of

’former British Airways PR consultant’.



Four years after being accused by Virgin chairman Richard Branson of

masterminding a smear campaign against his company on BA’s behalf - and

being unceremoniously dumped by BA itself - Basham’s struggle to clear

his name has finally paid off. Last month he won his libel action

against author Martyn Gregory and publisher Little, Brown and Company

over the book Dirty Tricks. The irony is that Basham had co-operated

with the book - an example, suggests one press contact, of his

’devil-may-care’ attitude.



Basham says he saw the book as a chance to tell the truth about his role

in the commercial war between the two airlines. Instead he found himself

portrayed as a liar.



For those who saw the action as a means to get senior British Airways

and Virgin management into the witness box, the case was a

disappointment - although Basham always claimed this was incidental. If

nothing else, it proves that the man once dubbed the ’street fighter’ is

still a force to be reckoned with. ’I never stop,’ he says, matter of

factly.



Even now, Basham won’t let go. He has his sights set on Gregory’s QC

Ronald Thwaites, whom he accuses of abusing court privilege with his

remarks.



If there is a touch of the obsessive about Basham it is the mark,

perhaps, of a self-made man. The son of a south London butcher, he left

school at 16 and served an apprenticeship as an electrician before

breaking into journalism at the Daily Mail. From there he moved on to

the Daily Telegraph and finally the Times. There was also a brief period

as a broker’s analyst investigating the links between the City and

organised crime.



He moved into PR with John Addey Associates in 1972 and left four years

later to found Broad Street Associates. His first employee was John

Coyle; together they built Broad Street into a pounds 15 million public

company with a reputation for high-profile and aggressive PR, together

with an equally high-octane lifestyle.



Basham’s trade mark was detailed investigations of his opponents’

strengths and weaknesses - ’getting back to the brick-work’ he calls it.

Coyle praises him as: ’a great lateral thinker and a brilliant

advocate’. But outside the business community, the style - Saville Row

suits, two car phones and a permanent table at the Savoy - sometimes

grated with the press.



And the (self-perpetuated) myth of the tough, aggressive PR man made him

an obvious fall-guy for BA.



Never, by Coyle’s admission ’the best managed company’, Broad Street ran

into trouble in 1989, although by then Basham had sold most of his stake

to BDDP. He took some of the business and formed Warwick Corporate.



A socialist, and vocal republican, Basham has always seen himself as an

outsider, although, ironically, he is most proud of his work to

reinstate the two-minute silence for the Royal British Legion. Currently

he is working with club owner James Palumbo on a campaign to encourage

young people to use their vote. Another hobby horse is the regulation of

financial PR people.



The 1997 Basham is silver-haired and every inch the corporate PR man:

articulate, well connected and eminently plausible - no hint of the

wild-man of the 1980s who, according to one colleague, once chewed a

champagne glass. He chooses his words carefully but sidetracks endlessly

with tales of characters such as Robert Maxwell - a former client - whom

he met when he doorstepped him for the Telegraph.



Having spent the last three years on the Dirty Tricks case, building his

care home business Primrose Care and working on the two-minute silence,

Basham is now turning his attention back to PR.



There is a new service aimed at smaller quoted companies. There will

also be a similar refocusing of Warwick Corporate with a merger which

Basham says will near double the agency in size. The message is clear -

Basham is back.



HIGHLIGHTS

1976 Starts Broad Street Associates

1991 Starts Warwick Corporate

1994 Issues writ over Dirty Tricks

1996 Wins libel case



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