Angus Maitland, 60 last August, has bestrode the City PR scene for over three decades, and has found himself undergoing somewhat of a renaissance of late. His agency, Maitland, established a global alliance with public affairs giant APCO late last year (PRWeek, 24 Nov 2006) and 2007 was barely under way when it picked up the much sought-after HSBC brief (PRWeek, 26 Jan).
In fact, Maitland’s personal guarantee that he would lead the HSBC account swung the business in his 45-strong agency’s favour ahead of a strong challenge from Financial Dynamics.
‘Angus is a class act,’ says The Sunday Times business editor John Waples. ‘A straight-talking Scotsman who tells it as it is. That means a lot to journalists.’
Another City journalist goes further, suggesting that Maitland’s attitude places him above many of his peers. ‘Some PR people think they are investment bankers, but Angus knows his place. He’s exactly the opposite of some of his rivals.’
Not that Maitland’s technique has always been beneficial. Some City commentators say his agency has a reputation for high client turnover – although on the flip-side it does seem to win more than it loses. And some former clients have said they disliked the executive chairman’s occasionally hands-off approach.
But ex-colleague and former Rolls-Royce director of comms Duncan Campbell-Smith says that in a meeting of bankers, businessmen and clients, it is Maitland who will come across as the intellectual. ‘Angus has a rare ability to sit quietly at the conference table and bide his time while others are rushing in,’ he says. ‘But you can be sure that the better known he is around that table, the quicker he will be asked for his opinion.’
William Clutterbuck, senior consultant at Maitland, jokes that his boss’s laid-back demeanour may hinder his recruitment technique. ‘When Angus interviewed me back in 1994, only a few months after he started the business, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because of an air-conditioner,’ he recalls. ‘So then I asked him to speak up, at which point he said he had to go to a meeting in the City and would I accompany him in the car? At least we could hear each other there.’
Colleagues and former colleagues describe Maitland as a bit of a whirlwind around the office, constantly flitting in and out. Certainly, during conversations Maitland always appears to be busy, happy to get business done quickly because he has other matters to attend to.
Unlike many City PR men, Maitland has no journalism background. His career began as an economic and market analyst in the engineering industry, eventually joining Charles Barker as director of research and planning.
After running the corporate and financial comms practice at Burson-Marsteller, he set up The Maitland Consultancy (now Maitland) in 1994.
Initial clients included SG Warburg Group, Unilever and Olivetti, laying the foundation for its establishment as a top-tier agency. Since its inception, Maitland has handled an impressive list of IPOs and acquisitions. These include 3i’s IPO in 1994 (the biggest ever in the UK at the time), and that of Thomson Travel in 1998 (which succeeded 3i’s as the biggest). It also handled the 2005 acquisition of Abbey by Spain’s Santander.
Currently, its client list includes Tesco, Cadbury-Schweppes and the Rugby Football Union.
Maitland is one of the less conspicuous City PR people, although there are rumours of a yacht in the Highlands that he spends time on with his family – he has two children. But by far the most marked thing about him is that journalists and peers alike retain a genuine admiration for him.
As one rival puts it: ‘Angus is nice, and that makes him stand out, because in this industry there are an awful lot of shits.’
CV - Angus Maitland
Executive chairman, The Maitland Consultancy
Executive director and global head of corporate and financial comms consultancy, then worldwide vice-chairman, Burson-Marsteller
Director of planning and research, Valin Pollen
Head of consultancy and deputy chairman, then chairman and CEO, The VPI Group
Management consultant, RWKinnaird & Co
Director of planning and research, Charles Barker
Various marketing roles, The Weir Group and The Sybron Corporation