Marks & Spencer splits with Tulchan amid financial PR review

Marks & Spencer has ended its eight-year relationship with retained financial PR agency Tulchan Communications.

Marks & Spencer: Ending relationship with Tulchan Communications
Marks & Spencer: Ending relationship with Tulchan Communications

M&S announced on Friday evening it is to conduct a review of its financial comms account and that Tulchan will not take part in the process.  

The review comes after the retailer was forced to release its Christmas trading update early after its contents were leaked to the media the evening before its planned announcement.  

Tulchan founder Andrew Grant told the Telegraph that the review was not triggered by the leaked announcement last month and that M&S chief executive Mark Bolland had wanted to review the firm’s financial PR arrangements for some time.  

‘The timing of this decision is unfortunate. We played no part in the leak and the chairman has given me an assurance that there is no belief at M&S that we were involved,’ Grant said.  

Grant had a close working relationship with former M&S CEO and executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose, who stepped down as chief executive in mid-2010 and chairman in January 2011.  

Grant told PRWeek that he met Bolland when he took over from Rose in 2010 and offered to stand down from the account. Bolland, however, said he would not review the company’s financial PR requirements for two years.  

Tulchan was first drafted in by Rose in 2004 to aid the successful fight to resist a takeover bid from Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green, replacing then incumbent Brunswick.  

Dominic Fry, the retailer’s director of comms & investor relations, joined from Tulchan in 2009.  

M&S has experienced indifferent performance since Rose’s departure, with sales in the last quarter of 2012 largely flat and general merchandise revenues dropping 4 per cent on a like-for-like basis.  

Robert Swannell, M&S chairman, told the Telegraph: ‘Tulchan has served Marks & Spencer well, with skill, commitment and integrity. However after eight years as our advisers, we have decided that the time has come for a change and to conduct a planned review.’  

City PR interest in one of the market’s blue-chip clients is likely to be strong, but the participation of some of the City’s largest firms in the review will depend on M&S’ view of potential conflicts with fashion and supermarket retailers.  

Brunswick, for example, won briefs with Tesco and Debenhams in 2012, while fellow City PR heavyweight Finsbury is retained by J Sainsbury and represented Green during his hostile bid for M&S.  

Bolland used Citigate Dewe Rogerson for financial PR during his tenure at Morrisons – an account Citigate continues to hold, along with briefs for Associated British Foods and John Lewis Partnership.

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