News Analysis: The faces behind 19 Entertainment

Ford of Europe's comms supremo is leaving to join an entertainment powerhouse with clients such as the Beckhams and Honda Racing F1. Alex Black reports.

When Stuart Dyble starts work at 19 Entertainment’s offices later this month, he will become one of the major cogs in the slick commercial machine that keeps the razzmatazz of pop music sparkling and is fast moving into new areas of operation.

‘19 is a creative office environment,’ says Julian Henry, the founder of PR agency Henry’s House who is also 19’s head of comms. ‘A lot of talent and some of the best brand people in the world come through 19’s doors, and the culture reflects that.’

Dyble – Ford of Europe’s V-P of comms and corporate affairs – is joining the Battersea-based company in the new role of head of sport.

Founded by Simon Fuller in 1985 as 19 Management (it is named after the pop single by Paul Hardcastle, who Fuller was managing at the time), the business has diversified from pop-star management into numerous fields, with an annual turnover of circa £150m and 120-plus staff. Fuller sold the group to North American billionaire Robert Sillerman’s CKX in a $200m deal in March 2005.

‘A testament to Fuller’s skills’
Frank PR MD Andrew Bloch says the sell-off has enabled 19 to expand, and a series of high-profile new personnel in 2006 suggests there is also money in the bank for hiring new talent.

Outside Organisation boss Alan Edwards describes what Fuller has accomplished as ‘remarkable... to have achieved all that success in such a low-key way is a testament to his skills’.

Fuller is indeed low key. 19 and Henry claim no stock photos of him exist, and hacks are advised to contact a photo agency for unstaged shots.

Today, the group’s four main divisions – TV, fashion, sport and music – are run by divisional heads who report to Fuller and president Robert Dodds (see below). Specialists within the divisions then handle PR, sponsorship and marketing. There are also two commercial divisions, finance and legal units, and Henry’s comms team, which has around eight members spread across the company.

Fuller continues to remain best known for creating and managing the Spice Girls. More recently, other notable successes include bringing Real Madrid star David Beckham into the 19 stable in 2003. The footballer’s spokesman Simon Oliveira is based in the agency’s Battersea offices.

Last year the company snatched a contract from CSS Stellar to handle commercial opportunities the England football team. 19 has since, under Fuller and Beckham’s personal manager Terry Byrne, set up a division badged 1966 for sports work.

In February last year 19 struck a deal to build the Honda F1 Racing team profile beyond the racing arena. Fuller underlined just how seriously 19 was taking sports by luring Chris Shaw from his executive V-P position at marcoms shop Universal McCann to handle the Honda business.

So where does Dyble fit in? His role – which is not a PR position – is to oversee the commercial side of 19’s sports portfolio. Henry – in his capacity as 19’s head of comms – will continue to co-ordinate PR, including managing relationships with other PR and new-media agencies.

Henry has acted as spokesman for 19 and Fuller for a number of years, but has stepped up his involvement in the firm over the past year. He estimates that he has spent, on average, four days out of five in Battersea over the past 12 months, leaving the day-to-day running of Henry’s House to MD Ginny Paton and directors such as former BBC comedy and entertainment head of comms for Julian Payne.

Paton says Henry’s House works on many of 19’s TV, music and sports clients, including the Honda F1 brief. She estimates that ‘seven or eight Henry’s House staff are working with 19 clients at any one time’, with 19-oriented work taking up around 15 per cent of the agency’s client-handling time. However, Paton is keen to point out that this is not an exclusive arrangement, and other specialist agencies, such as The Communication Store, handle fashion work for 19.

Shifting priorities
Henry himself is busy reorganising the way 19 works with its PR agencies in the US. ‘The main agencies with which we work in the US are Rogers & Cowan and BWR PR, but we work with others on projects,’ he says. ‘I’m shifting these agencies’ priorities so they are more accountable to our London, rather than LA, office.’

With the bulk of 19’s staff based in London (around 20 are in Los Angeles, with ‘cells’ in New York, Germany and the Far East), Fuller is keen to ensure the UK capital is at the core of things.

Dyble will certainly bring corporate clout to the agency. One senior observer tells PRWeek that Fuller has                     always hankered after greater involvement in sport, but does not understand the sector as well as music: ‘A large part of sports representation is keeping sports people out of the papers, not in them. That is not 19’s strength.’

The end of Beckham’s stint as England captain this summer has also sown seeds of doubt about 1966’s direction. The Daily Mail’s influential sports diarist Charles Sale, for example, has claimed that little had been heard of the division since Beckham lost his place in the national team.

But Henry insists 1966 is going strong as a ‘sports marketing specialist resource’, and has also started working with hotly tipped 17-year-old Wiltshire golf prodigy Henrietta Brockway.

But mainly people continue to come to Fuller for the development and management of brand property.

Ultimately, Frank PR’s Andrew Bloch correctly identifies Fuller’s success as ‘taking simple ideas to all levels’. He adds: ‘Fuller has the ability to take a concept and spread it across the media and into merchandising and sponsorship. This makes 19 a great operation.’

With Dyble soon to arrive, watch this space for innovation in the motorsport arena in particular.

The 19 machine: who’s who
Simon FULLER chief executive;
Robert DODDS
(founder of Freedom Media, joined 2006) – president;
Stuart DYBLE
(Ford of Europe V-P of comms and corporate affairs to join at the end of January) – head of sport;
Jo PHILLIPS (former stylist and ex-fashion journalist) – head of fashion;
Chris SHAW
(ex-Universal McCann executive vice-president) – head of promotion, Honda Racing F1;
Martha BRASS
head of TV;
head of 1966 (with Simon Fuller);
Julian HENRY
(chairman and founder of Henry’s House) – head of comms.

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