Exclusive: Portland founder Tim Allan steps down

One of the UK's most successful political-corporate advisors, Tim Allan, is leaving the agency, Portland, he founded 18 years ago to pursue other interests.

Tim Allan founded Portland 18 years ago.
Tim Allan founded Portland 18 years ago.

A press advisor to Tony Blair in the mid-1990s and still influential in London’s political world, Allan started Portland in 2001 – his first client was BSkyB - and built it up to an international firm of 250 staff with offices in London, Washington D.C., Doha, Nairobi and Singapore. 

Allan, and the firm’s partners, sold the agency to marketing services group Omnicom in 2012 in a deal thought to have been worth at least £20m.

In Allan’s place, Portland is naming Mark Flanagan (below) – currently the agency’s UK managing director – as its CEO. It is understood that Flanagan will ‘freshen up’ its executive committee a little, but that the other senior partners will remain.

Allan said: "It has been quite a journey since launching Portland in a tiny room, with one client and a couple of staff in 2001. I’m hugely proud of the growth we have achieved, the high quality and innovative services we have provided our clients over the years, and the exciting careers we have been able to offer to the loyal and hugely talented staff.

"I thank each and every one of them, past and present, for what we have achieved together, and I thank the clients for the trust they have placed in us. I leave the company in great shape. It is doing fantastic work, is growing strongly and we’ve developed some of the best talents in the industry."

Flanagan, a former head of strategic communications at 10 Downing Street, joined Portland in 2010. Under his recent stewardship the agency has grown steadily. PRWeek estimates the agency increased annual UK revenues by three per cent last year to £31m, making it the country’s 13th biggest PR consultancy. 

At the same time Portland is taking over fellow Omnicom public affairs consultancy GPLUS from January 2020, rebranding it as Portland, as part of a strategic move to boost its international footprint. Omnicom describes GPLUS as "specialising in political communications and regulatory risks". Founded in 2000 in Brussels, it has since expanded and opened offices in Paris, Berlin and London and employs about 50 staff.

"Tim’s are big shoes to fill and I feel privileged to be asked to lead this amazing agency through the next chapter," said Flanagan. "The combination of GPLUS and Portland will significantly increase our international footprint and is an important statement of our joint ambition. We’re re proud of our past but focused on the future, with an aspiration to build one of the leading strategic communications consultancies in the world."

Karen Van Bergen, CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group, responded: "I’m very grateful to Tim for his vision and leadership that has led Portland to become a top strategic communications firm. Tim has assembled a stellar team, of which Mark is a shining example. Since joining Portland, he has consistently delivered strong growth for Portland and I am thrilled to have him lead this new chapter."

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