NEWS: Profile: David Wright, Citigate Communications; Making a very public display

Citigate is going public, but is that enough for chief executive David Wright?

Citigate is going public, but is that enough for chief executive David

Wright?



On the seventh floor of 26 Finsbury Square David Wright’s office

commands an impressive view of the City of London. It is a place Wright

has always wanted to be and, with Citigate’s transition into a public

company, where he has finally arrived.



Wright has never made a secret of his intention to float Citigate. ‘I’ve

always built and run the group as if we were going to be a public

company,’ he says. ‘I felt that too many PR companies in the 1980s went

wrong because they were run by entrepreneurs who were very good

operators but not very good managers.’



Wright himself admits he makes a better manager than a PR operator and

is surprisingly uncomfortable under the media spotlight. ‘As a

businessman he excels, but he was never one of the big PR

practitioners,’ says former colleague and Financial Dynamics chairman

Tony Knox. ‘He’s very single minded and set his heart on floating

Citigate from the beginning.’



Wright’s modest beginnings may give a clue to his ambition. The son of a

bookmaker, Wright left school with a ‘basic’ education. At the age of 16

he began working as a clerk in the cuttings library of the Financial

Times. Three years later he moved to the prices room, eventually heading

the team which listed stocks and shares for the back page. From there he

moved into journalism and wrote for the newspaper’s company news section

for almost ten years.



‘I was given tremendous opportunities at the FT and I took them with

both hands,’ recalls Wright. ‘I felt I didn’t make the best of my early

days so I thought I needed to prove something to myself. I’ve never been

short of confidence and I always felt I had the ability to do things.’



Sensing limited opportunities in journalism, Wright turned to public

relations, first as director of PR at Universal McCann, then as a

director of Financial Strategy. In 1986 the agency became Streets

Financial Strategy and Wright was appointed managing director. Following

the failure of a management buyout in 1987, Wright quit the agency and

set up Citigate with fellow ex-director Alastair Campbell-Harris and was

joined by 35 out of 41 Streets staff.



‘One reason why they wanted to come and join me was that I took the view

that this is a people’s business and I needed to involve them in the

development of the business,’ he says. ‘It instilled a level of

commitment that is not apparent in any other firm,’ he explains.



Nevertheless, he admits to being a tough manager. ‘I do cultivate my

relationship with the staff,’ he says, ‘and I am seen to be quite a

friendly chap. But I don’t think you can have too many friends in a

business because they may have to go. This is the easiest industry in

the world to spend money but the most difficult to make money, so you

have to be commercial.’



Others go further. ‘He hates to feel anyone is above him or stands out

too much and can never understand someone not going along with his point

of view,’ says one former colleague. ‘He does inspire a level of loyalty

but very often it’s based on those he relates to. He operates by gut

instinct rather than cerebral reasoning.’



As chief executive of the UK’s eighth biggest PR consultancy, Wright has

little time to indulge his private interests, which include supporting

Chelsea Football Club and occasionally playing cricket. An earlier

interest in the gaming industry has waned, although he admits to placing

the odd bet on a race ‘to add more interest’. Most of his time and

energy are devoted to turning Citigate into an international company.



Welcoming comparisons with Abbott Mead Vickers as a similarly well-

managed business, Wright says his next move is to develop Citigate as a

diversified communications group.



‘I regard my job as half done now,’ he says. ‘I see the other half as

doubling the size of the company. I think I’m probably more motivated

now than I have been for some time.’



John-Pierre Joyce



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HIGHLIGHTS

------------------------------------------------------------------------

1960 Clerk, Financial Times 

1979 Director of PR, Universal McCann 

1984 Director, Financial Strategy 

1986 Managing director, Streets Financial Strategy 

1987 Chief executive, Citigate Communications Group

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