Ian Monk would like to edit the Daily Mail. Although his last two jobs in journalism were on the Daily Express and The Sun, Monk likes to be thought of as a Mail man. But as Paul Dacre, one of the most successful editors in the paper's long history shows no signs of leaving, he's sticking with PR for the time being.
It's in his blood now. Since joining MacLaurin Communications as a director in September 1998, he insists he hasn't looked back. For the last two years, following the sale of the MacLaurin Group to Michael Murphy's venture capital-backed hatch-group - which as a shareholder netted him a six-figure sum - he has toyed with the idea of setting up his own stall.
Now in his mid-forties, Monk was born in London but grew up in Leicester, and went to Bristol to study English, history and politics.
He got his first job in journalism on the Bucks Free Press, a venerable broadsheet of some 170 years of age. By 1979 he had found his way to Fleet Street. He became a reporter on the Mail, then foreign editor, then news editor, then executive editor, before moving to the Express as deputy editor.
Despite a 20-year pedigree as a hack, PR now seems to be his natural milieu. The beginning of June saw the launch of Ian Monk Associates, which he is running from a couple of offices in Hammersmith Grove. 'I spent my last 12 years in newspapers as an executive,' says Monk, 'I edited the Daily Mail on many occasions, I edited the Express on many occasions, and creating a newspaper is probably the nearest thing a man gets to giving birth. But it's an enclosed existence, you are pontificating on the world from inside a newspaper office 15 hours a day.'
Now he gets his kicks from going out and about, dealing with the media from the outside, and meeting interesting characters. He has certainly managed some colourful reputations in the last five years: Carol Caplin and Peter Foster, Anthea Turner, Nick Leeson, Richard Desmond, and the Tory candidate, blonde bombshell and former TV presenter Esther McVey.
All of them, apart from Desmond and Turner, have joined him at his new business, along with a few less headline-grabbing names like the Periodical Publishers Association and French publisher Hachette, with its slate of successful UK magazines including Red, Elle and Sugar.
Brian MacLaurin left hatch at the same time as Monk, a couple of months ago. The pair, having signed restrictive covenants when they sold up to Murphy, are not allowed to pitch against any hatch clients, and cannot work with each other for two years.
But Monk seems happy on his own. He likes having his name on the door, and feels it carries enough weight in Fleet Street to give it to his business.
Like all good PR men, he never knowingly undersells himself: 'I'm very proud and I'm very lucky that I can pick up the phone to any editor and they'll take my call.'
As MacLaurin's offices are literally next to Monk's, the two nip down to the coffee bar at the end of their corridor most days for a blather, and to compare column inches. On the day of this interview, Monk had McVey posing on page six of the Mail, backing its euro referendum poll, and his client Jonathan Shalit, Charlotte Church's former manager, reviewing her film in the Express.
In terms of colour, Monk's own life is not far behind his clients'. His name is rarely out of the media diaries, and as Caplin's media handler he got a namecheck in a national almost every day during Cheriegate. He even appeared, albeit as a voice at the end of the phone, in the subsequent BBC documentary on Peter Foster (The Conman, His Lover and the Prime Minister's Wife) advising him not to sell his story to the papers.
'I took some time to persuade him that good journalists can make good PR men,' says MacLaurin. 'But when I did he was hugely effective. His energy and work ethic are phenomenal.' High praise indeed from a person who rises at 5am on work days and is notorious for being plugged into his mobile round the clock.
As a newspaper man, Monk had a fierce reputation with his staff, and MacLaurin admits he is not everyone's cup of tea: 'A lot of people don't take to Ian, but I do and it's very rare to find a client who doesn't either. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. If things aren't going right he's quite fiery - in a controlled way.'
Monk is addicted to the cut and thrust of media relations, but there is also continuity in his life. He still lives in Buckinghamshire and remains faithful to his first love, Leicester City. And, although he is unlikely to return to newspapers, his stepdaughter is carrying the family banner at his beloved Daily Mail.
1988: News editor, Daily Mail
1995: Deputy editor, Daily Express
1998: Director, MacLaurin Group
2001: Managing director, MacLaurin Media
2003: Founder, Ian Monk Associates