OPINION: Sunnucks move is not a big mystery

The interesting thing about John Sunnucks' move from Brunswick to Tulchan (PRWeek, 8 June) is why it should be thought of as unu­sual. Moving at a senior level in professional firms is quite rare.

Few lawyers leave Link­laters to join Freshfields, or desert PriceWaterhouse-Coop­ers to join Deloitte, but in business move­ment at a senior level is the norm. Look how Boots and Sains­bury’s are run by people such as Richard Baker and Justin King, who was formerly at Asda.

DRG, the group formerly known as Dixons, has gone shopping at Tesco for its new chief executive, which is a pattern happening on a regular basis. But it is less common in financial comms than in the rest of the public relations industry judging from the stories on the news pages of PRWeek.

So why does it not happen much between finan­cial PR consultancies? One reason, I suspect, is that financial PR is a very small world dominated by half a dozen big firms. The lesson from the law and accounting is that the fewer the number of firms, the more they stress their differences – even when none exist – and the deeper entrenched is their rivalry, making it hard for people to move. PR is not a profession in the same way (well, not at all really) so this hardly seems sufficient reason. More likely perhaps is that senior people are reluctant to move because they are hand­cuffed to their firms as part of a deal under which the business was sold in the past few years.

This is the case at Maitland , Finsbury, Buchanan, at Citigate/ Hunstworth, and to some of the firms absorbed by Weber Shandwick and several others. So the big question is whether the removal of these handcuffs will mark the signal for a mass move around? I suspect it will. When talent is scarce and client relationships are worth a lot, people get poached – look at the way the investment banks behave.

Why did Sunnucks move? I have not talked to him about it, but I suspect that having worked at Brunswick for 20 years ago perhaps he wanted a change. There is the promise of equity at Tulchan and that might count for something, although in his case I would be surprised if it was the deciding fac­tor. Much more likely is that he just felt he should move while he still had the ambition to make a difference. That seems the best reason of all.

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