CAMPAIGNS: Media Relations - Rover news hounds kept at bay by PR

Client: Phoenix Consortium

Client: Phoenix Consortium

Campaign: Media relations surrounding bid for Rover

PR Team: Ludgate Communications

Timescale: 14 April - 9 May

Budget: Undisclosed

On Friday 28 April, talks with car manufacturer BMW and venture capital

group Alchemy regarding the latter’s bid for Rover collapsed, leading to

fears that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost. Phoenix, a

consortium headed by former Rover chief executive John Towers, had

previously been refused the chance to bid because of inadequate

financial backing. Ludgate was appointed by Phoenix on 14 April to

handle all media enquiries.

Following the collapse of the Alchemy talks Phoenix was able to step up

its bid for Rover. Phoenix’s leading financial adviser Albert E Sharp

Securities is a client of Ludgate Communications and recommended the

agency to the consortium.


Ludgate’s primary role was to communicate two key messages to the media:

that Phoenix would safeguard a high number of jobs; and that it would

continue to produce a high volume of cars. The agency was charged to

handle all media enquiries leading up to the start of the bid, and

following the announcement.

Ludgate was also responsible for conveying that Phoenix had sufficient

financial backing, but that no details could be divulged. The agency

also had to divert media enquiry away from the Phoenix Consortium

itself, allowing it to concentrate its efforts on its bid.

Strategy and Plan

The agency communicated information to the national and relevant

regional press, as well as broadcasters. It provided background details

of the members of the consortium, its plans to retain the majority of

employees at the Longbridge plant, and to continue to produce high

numbers of cars.

This was in contrast to Alchemy, which had planned to make up to 5,000

staff redundant at Longbridge and to only make cars for a niche


Alchemy’s negotiations with Rover had been exclusive, so when the news

broke on 28 April that talks had collapsed, Phoenix was suddenly in the

limelight and Ludgate was swamped with calls from the media.

On 8.30am on Tuesday 9 May, news broke that Phoenix’s bid had been

successful, and that it had bought Rover for a nominal pounds 10. This

prompted an even greater deluge of media interest within half an hour of

the decision.

Towers and the rest of the consortium were on their way from London to

Longbridge so were unable to address the media personally.

Ludgate orchestrated a press conference at the Rover plant for 2pm which

was attended by hundreds of journalists. Phoenix has not gone into any

detail of its financial backing although there is much media speculation

as to what this entails. However, it was established that BMW agreed to

grant Phoenix a pounds 500 million ’loan’.

Aside from handling media enquiries, Ludgate has also received faxes and

e-mails from private individuals and companies wishing to support

Phoenix, which it has forwarded to the consortium.

Measurement and Evaluation

Ludgate Communications were able to handle all media interest in the

Phoenix Consortium. Media coverage was gained universally across the UK

in all media. The two key messages appeared to have been effectively

communicated to the media, although no formal media analysis has yet

been conducted.


The media coverage for the most part seems to have portrayed Phoenix in

a positive light - the consortium’s intentions to retain higher numbers

of staff and to produce a high-volume output are apparent in a lot of

coverage. However, some commentators continue to express doubts about

Rover’s long-term future.

Phoenix is in talks with motor giant Honda to sell 49 per cent of Rover

to the company. It has also been announced that showroom prices for

Rover models will be cut by 12 per cent in a bid to secure a long-term

future for the manufacturer. Ludgate is continuing to work for the


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