EDITORIAL: A major challenge for 'hitman' Miles

The situation at stockbroking firm Collins Stewart is becoming the City's biggest soap opera. But a closer look reveals tangled plot lines that are fast turning into one almighty mess.

Former employee James Middleweek has filed a claim for unfair dismissal, the firm has seen its counterclaim for blackmail rejected by the police and is now suing key media contact the Financial Times, alleging libel for repeating Middleweek's claims.

Furthermore, its PR adviser, Redleaf Communications CEO Emma Kane, was on holiday when the FT story was published, and Tulchan Communications, the agency brought in as cover, has parted company after mere days on the brief. The firm has now brought in another adviser, Nick Miles of M Communications, who is briefed only to handle the Middleweek and FT situation.

In some City PRO circles, Miles is known as the 'hitman', and the man brought in when it all gets dirty. The situation at Collins Stewart in reputation management terms is arguably as dirty as they come.

If Miles is to succeed in cleaning up this mess, he must pose some key questions to the client.

Why, when one person at Redleaf was on holiday, did the client feel the need to bring in another agency to deal with this sensitive issue?

And why sue the FT? Wouldn't it be better for senior figures at Collins Stewart to call FT owner Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino to work out another, less public solution?

If 'hitman' Miles is to last longer than Tulchan, he could be facing his toughest challenge yet.

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