Virgin Radio axes top role despite surge in profits

Virgin Radio has made its top PR man redundant in a surprise move that has left Simon Horne without a job to go to.

News of Horne's departure – which he conceded came as a shock – comes in the week the station's owner, media group SMG, reported a 46 per cent hike in pre-tax profits. Virgin Radio itself posted an increase in profits of 23 per cent.

The station's publicity is now being handled by PR manager Cat Macdonald, a former senior account executive at The Red Consultancy who Horne hired three years ago. Her job title is

She will be assisted by two newly appointed comms executives, one of whom – a 'placement student' – is already in the post.

Macdonald said: 'Virgin Radio looked at its PR structure and decided to make Simon's role redundant. We want to mirror the communications structure across SMG companies.'

Virgin Radio will continue to use The Outside Organisation for consumer PR and Eulogy! for trade comms. Their contracts are not under review.

Horne's most recent high-profile task was to organise the launch campaign for Christian O'Connell's breakfast show. The show, which launched in January, has been generally well received in the media.

Horne told PRWeek: 'I'm now looking for a senior role in an agency, or client-side.'

He joined Virgin after its high-profile bust-up with former breakfast show presenter Chris Evans. Horne formerly worked at The Body Shop and Countrywide Porter Novelli .

Virgin has invested heavily in growing its digital services in the face of the declining AM platform.

Last autumn the station welcomed Fru Hazlitt, a former MD of Yahoo! UK and Ireland, as its CEO.

Macdonald now reports to Virgin Radio marketing director David Andrews and SMG corporate affairs director Callum Spreng.

Virgin Radio's profits were up from £4m (2004) to £4.9m last year.

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