B-M hires Underground chief for lobbying arm

Burson-Marsteller has turned to a London Underground comms chief to drive for­ward its faltering lobbying practice.

The WPP firm has ­app­ointed George Hutchinson as chair of its UK public aff­airs division. Hutchinson is currently director of external affairs at Tube Lines, the company responsible for running three of the busiest lines on London Underground. He is also a former director in Weber Shandwick's PA division.

Hutchinson joins B-M later this month, reporting to UK chief executive Jonathan Jordan. His appointment follows a trio of senior exits last year which left the agency with around six full-time public ­affairs staff and prompted speculation that the lobbying arm would be wound down.

Former chairman of the PA division Simon Elliott resigned from the agency late last year (PRWeek, 20 October 2006) and is now MD at LLM Communications. ­

Elliot's departure coincided with that of Charles Willis, a former director in the agency's PA practice who is now head of external ­affairs at foster care charity Tact. Former senior associate ­Simon Petar also left B-M's lobbying arm to take up a similar role at The Policy Partnership (PRWeek, 17 November 2006).

But Jordan this week insisted: ‘Public affairs is a strong area for Burson-Marsteller.' He added that Hutchinson's experience would ‘benefit existing and new clients'.

Hutchinson will work closely with Rhoda Macdonald, who has been overseeing the agency's PA practice as managing director. B-M UK chairman Gavin Grant will maintain an active role in running the PA division.

Hutchinson joined Tube Lines three years ago (PRWeek, 30 January 2004) and has worked through crises including the 7 July bombings in London.

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