Citigate in crisis as Osborn quits

Citigate Public Affairs was this week plunged into crisis when MD Rex Osborn became the latest high-profile figure to quit the Huntsworth-owned consultancy.

Resignation: Osborn leaves
Resignation: Osborn leaves

PRWeek understands that Osborn, who was made MD last year, has agreed to join a rival PA agency. He is the third big name in 18 months to quit the company – following the departures of MD ­Simon Nayyar and chair Warwick Smith.

Meanwhile, Luther Pendragon founder George Pitcher will tour Brussels in an attempt to bolster the firm’s European PA interests. Pitcher was parachuted in last month by parent company Global Consulting Group (PRWeek, 18 April).

Before joining Citigate, Osborn worked for the ­Labour Party, where he spent nine years, rising to deputy head of campaigns and Westminster Strategy.

Osborn could not be reached for comment, but Citigate senior MD Chris Bunting confirmed that he had resigned.

Senior players in the PA industry questioned whether Citigate would recover from the latest resignation. One said: ‘You have to wonder if there is any future for the agency.’ Another said: ‘It’s a big blow. Especially coming after Warwick – it’s the drip, drip effect. As long as they get someone in quickly they can bounce back, but it’s going to take a couple of years.’

Citigate was taken over by Huntsworth-owned Global Consulting Group in 2005. Its woes began in early 2006 when Nayyar left after more than 16 years to become vice-chairman of UK public affairs at Edelman (PRWeek, 12 January 2006). Months ­later, Smith quit to be man­aging partner of newly-formed College Public Policy (PRWeek, 20 October 2006).

This year, Citigate was weakened further when MD James Nason left to be Smith’s right-hand man at College Hill (PRWeek, 26 January).

Last month, parent firm Global Consulting Group called in PR grandee Pitcher to draw up a rescue plan for the ailing company. It is understood that Pitcher has been sent to Brussels with a brief to help build Global Consulting Group’s presence in Europe. Sources said Huntsworth CEO Lord ­Chadlington wants Pitcher to ­explore opportunities for collaboration, joint ventures, and possible acquisitions.

Pitcher is reporting to Chadlington and to Global Consulting Group chief executive Richard Wolff.

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