Smeeth exits Sodexho for pro-Israel lobby group

Outsourcing giant Sodexho's top lobbyist, Ruth Smeeth, is quitting to become director of public affairs and campaigns at pro-Israel group the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom).

Smeeth takes up the post at the start of November. She replaces director of comms Lee Petar, who last month joined Good Relations Political. Her brief has an added emphasis to strengthen the group's relations with the 'Foreign Office, party leaders, think-tanks and academia', said Bicom CEO Daniel Shek.

Bicom has also appointed Ben Novick as director of media relations - joining, ironically, from Good Relations, where he was an associate director.

Shek said he was recruiting for two further newly created media positions as Bicom bids radically to boost its profile.

The group was set up in 2000 to counter alleged anti-Israeli messages in the British media but now works more generally to shift public opinion in favour of Israel.

Sodexho is recruiting for Smeeth's successor as head of government relations, a role that reports to board-level corporate affairs director Phil Hooper.

The company provides support services in the healthcare, defence and education sectors, employing 48,000 people in the UK and Ireland. It is best known for its school catering services and was one of the companies that came under fire in the spring after TV chef Jamie Oliver's expose of the shocking nutritional standards of school dinners.

Smeeth joined Sodexho in January 2004.

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