It was 'too little too late' for BAA

baa lobbying Public affairs chiefs say airports owner did not do enough to prevent sell-off order

BAA: ordered to sell three of its airports
BAA: ordered to sell three of its airports

Public affairs agency chiefs have suggested BAA lobbyists could have done more to prevent the Competition Commission’s report calling for the break-up of its monopoly.

BAA, which operates seven UK airports, has been told to sell three – two in London and one in Scotland.
Hill & Knowlton head of corporate and public affairs Tim Fallon said: ‘I think there’s a hint of BAA thinking it couldn’t be touched. It didn’t do as much as it could have done. It was too little too late.’

Fallon, who previously worked in BAA’s public affairs department, added: ‘Its in-house operation has been increasingly volatile. There have been a number of appointments, which means there’s been no settled operation. It is not just about people, it’s about a settled strategy and messaging. It has lacked consistency in its approach.’

BAA group director of corporate affairs Tom Kelly joined the company last year after being an official spokesman for former PM Tony Blair.

In April, Scott Colvin was promoted to the new post of group head of public affairs as Malcolm Robertson was appointed deputy director of corporate and public affairs. Former PA chief Mike Kelly left for InBev in January. City agency Finsbury was also brought on board to advise on public affairs last November.

Weber Shandwick PA chairman Jon McLeod said: ‘You’d have to say BAA’s parent company should have got on top of this a lot earlier in the process. It did the transactions and took its eye off the ball in terms of competition. I have a feeling it’s the endgame.  It’s too late to do anything.’

He suggested efforts should have included demonstrating to the Treasury that BAA is helping the UK economy, and working with the Commons’ business and enterprise select committee, the transport select committee and regional development agencies.

The public affairs short¬comings have been blamed on Spanish group Ferrovial, which bought BAA in 2006.

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