Nick Jones’ appointment as group communications director at
Anglo-American car components group Lucas Varity has brought him full
His first job 19 years ago was with a US company - Eaton Corporation,
also a manufacturer of automotive components. A scholarship student of
international relations first at the University of North Carolina and
then Georgetown University, Jones spent a total of 16 years in the US,
the last five of it with oil company Conoco.
Apart from the tell-tale mid-Atlantic inflection the evidence of his
time there is in his lack of English reserve. ’You feel like he’s
slapping you on the back all the time,’ says one press contact. ’It’s a
bit in-your-face the first time you come in contact with him.’
Jones’ friendly and excitable manner seems particularly out of place in
the rather austere and reserved atmosphere of Anglo-Dutch publishing
giant Reed Elsevier, where he has been director of corporate relations
for two years.
The result of the merger three years ago of British publisher Reed
International (owner of IPC) and Dutch firm Elsevier, Reed Elsevier has
a reputation for caution where the press is concerned. To make Jones’
job even more difficult, he has not one but two bosses: co-chairmen
Nigel Stapleton in the UK and Herman Bruggink in the Netherlands.
’The great challenge for someone in his position and for someone as
outgoing as Nick is to try and keep in well with both the Dutch and the
English management,’ says one observer. ’His approach has been to
arrange access to the senior executives as much as possible and to keep
out of the front line.’
Then there is the company’s zeal for cutting central overheads. What was
once a nine-strong corporate communications department when Jones joined
from PR consultancy Good Relations in 1990, is now just him and a
Jones, as always, points to the positives - the fact that technology has
made the information dissemination role less labour intensive and the
enjoyment he gets from being involved with every aspect of corporate
The one telling moment in our interview comes when I suggest we take his
picture in the plush downstairs foyer of Reed Elsevier’s Mayfair HQ
rather than his own anonymous office on the third floor. Jones is
nervous in case Stapleton walks in during the shoot. In the end,
Stapleton was out.
For all the bonhomie, it is difficult to get a real flavour of
He talks animatedly about his time as aide to former US ambassador to
the UK, Anne Armstrong and the ’sheer scale, in breadth and depth’ of
In terms of his personal life, he seems devoted to his family - his
wife, fashion journalist Christine Probert and their three young
children. A farmer’s son, his main passions are cricket and racing, he
is also involved in several charities. But try to get him to talk about
the pressures of the Reed Elsevier merger and the difficulties of
working for two bosses and Jones is unshakeably diplomatic.
He will need all his diplomatic skills in his new job, which he takes up
in April. Like Reed Elsevier, Lucas Varity is the result of a
cross-border merger - of UK company Lucas and American firm Varity. Six
months on the company is struggling to meet the differing demands of two
sets of investors - last week its shares slipped to a post-merger low of
Certainly Jones’ style - the barely contained nervous energy - should
fit well with his new boss, Varity chief executive Victor Rice, who has
a reputation for shooting from the hip.
Jones’ former boss at Reed, Jan Shawe, now director of corporate
communications at Prudential, is in little doubt that it will work.
’Nick’s a lovely bloke, very bright, very international and the perfect
choice for the Lucas Varity merger,’ she says.
International analysi, Conoco Inc
Associate director, Good Relations
Deputy director of corporate relations, Reed International
Director of corporate relations, Reed Elsevier
Group communications director, Lucas Varity