Profile: Gordon Beattie, Beattie Communications

Gordon Beattie believes himself to be the luckiest businessman in the world. Not because he can survive on a few hours’ sleep a night, but because of his demanding lifestyle, one imbued with ‘true traditional Scottish values’ and dominated by a solid ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic.

'I'll die at my desk,' claims the Glasgow-born, 50-year-old chief executive of Beattie Communications.

A fiercely determined character, Beattie's hero is one of his clients – an octogenarian self-made millionaire who still works, 'but only in the mornings before lunching with his wife and then playing golf'.

'I would rather go to the dentist and have my teeth pulled than stop working. I need the adrenaline,' he says.

He divides his time between the family home in Stirling, central Scotland, a Westminster flat and his house in Florida. He is currently expanding his property portfolio, having just bought 'another' house in London's St James's Square.

He moved the HQ of Beattie from Falkirk, Lanarkshire to London last year in order, he says, to secure pan-European accounts. He declares that he will continue to fight tooth and nail to shed Beattie's reputation (down south) as 'that Scottish agency', adding –ambitiously – that he wants Beattie to become the best PR firm in London.

He thinks the relocation has also succeeded in shifting the industry's perception of his business, which originally traded as a news agency supplying the Scottish press and broadcast industries before turning to PR.

'You only have to look at what accounts we're picking up now to
know we are no longer the "Scottish agency",' he says.

And despite having a personal stake in retailer The Whisky Shop, he is determined to shed the common association with Scotland. 'I don't like nationalism,' he explains. 'I think it is unhealthy for any country.'
Beattie says he would even move the family home to London if his wife was not set on staying in Scotland. But while his firm's HQ moved to London last year, Beattie has had a presence in the city for longer. It was the winning of a Hewlett-Packard (H-P) brief in 1999 that helped establish the office.

Initially, Beattie only had two employees in London, despite having room for 20, a situation that almost gave rise to what would have been a self-inflicted mishap: when he heard H-P's PR bosses were planning to visit, he admits to hiring a team of actors to give the impression of a buzzing office. But he discovered that the night before the big visit, one of the actors due to join his pretend team appeared on The Bill – playing a rapist. 'I just hoped they weren't watching TV – and sure enough, we won the H-P account,' he beams.
Knowing how to cut corners is an admirable quality, Beattie believes. When looking for recruits, surprisingly he cites laziness as something he appreciates: 'Laziness is a virtue, as it teaches people shortcuts.'
He is also keen on hiring women, who he claims are better communicators than men, and reveals his proudest moment was 19 years ago when he hired Laurna O'Donnell, who was promoted to group managing director this week.

More recently, his hire of former Edelman joint CEO Nigel Breakwell confirms Beattie's desire to expand into healthcare. He says, bullishly: 'Healthcare is a sleepy hollow: the same agencies have dominated the market for too long.'

He laughs when asked if he has plans to build another public affairs division. Beattie was at the centre of the well-chronicled Scottish lobbygate scandal in 1999, which forced the closure of his PA business. Six years on, he reflects: 'Lobbygate made me focus away from the public sector and look to bigger corporate clients.'
However, Beattie frowns and exhales a long 'nooooo' when asked if lobbygate was his biggest regret. More of a regret is 'not looking like Pierce Brosnan'. But in his own words, he has done 'alright for an ugly guy'

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