Asda hires Hughes for new public affairs role

Asda, the supermarket chain bidding for smaller rival Safeway, has hired Edelman European director of public affairs Bernard Hughes to fill its newly created UK head of government relations post.

Hughes, who starts in July, left Edelman at the beginning of this month. The agency’s European chairman of public affairs Michael Burrell was not available for comment as PRWeek went to press.

Hughes is a retail PR veteran, having headed public affairs at Tesco prior to joining Edelman as UK director of public affairs in November 2000. He has also worked for the British Retail Consortium.

He, too, was unavailable for comment as PRWeek went to press, having taken one month off to travel overseas before taking up his post with Asda.

Hughes’s new brief is likely to be a busy one. The chain, which is owned by US retail goliath Wal-Mart, is also rumoured to be bidding for discount retailer Matalan.

The £1bn bid rumours came less than a week after Asda said it was to open trial stand-alone stores in Croydon and Leeds, selling clothing from its best-selling budget fashion brand George.

Matalan is the fifth largest clothing retailer, with a 3.1 per cent market share.

Hughes’s experience in public affairs and government relations in the retail sector will be of value to Asda at a time when it is facing a bidding war for its expansion plans, particularly over Safeway.

Other would-be bidders include Bhs owner Philip Green, as well as Tesco, J Sainsbury and Wm Morrison. All of these, apart from Green, are expected to be referred to the Competition Commission.

Hughes’s departure follows that of former associate director Steve Doherty, who left to take a corporate PR role at Cohn & Wolfe earlier

this year.

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