When Katie Price, aka Jordan, and Peter Andre split up last week, the tabloids were not the only ones rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
In a piece of extraordinary good timing, PRWeek had a long-standing appointment this week to interview , the couple’s manager and co-founder of PR agency Can Associates. Powell and Price have now also parted company.
Andre remains on Can’s books, but Price will go her own way with the agency’s best wishes, Powell insists.
Powell, a 43-year-old glamorous blonde with a megawatt smile, will not reveal why Andre and Price split up, nor will she divulge whether Price left Can or Can dropped Price. She is keen to protect her clients, which include supermodel Rachel Hunter, numerous hotels and golf clubs, couture designers, photographers and Andre. This is only Powell’s second interview, and she agrees to speak about Price and Andre only in a professional capacity.
She insists the relationship between Andre and Price was genuine. ‘I would not have got involved if it was a publicity stunt,’ she says. Neither does Powell believe the couple’s split is, as has been speculated, a publicity stunt that will end in a reconciliation on the pages of OK magazine: ‘They did love each other. I am sure they still do, it has just not worked out.’
She cannot hide her sadness at the termination of her professional relationship with Price. Powell has been widely credited with transforming loudmouthed topless model Jordan into the female-friendly brand that is Katie Price. As celebrity PR guru Max Clifford says: ‘Jordan has been guided very well. She has had a very, very successful career.’
Price and Powell also had a strong personal relationship. ‘We were close friends,’ says Powell. She adds: ‘I thought I would be doing her branding going into her fifties.’ But it seems you can take Jordan away from Page Three but you cannot take Jordan out of Katie. ‘Katie loves being Jordan, and she may have thought, I want to be Jordan but you are forcing me to be Katie,’ says Powell.
It is not hard to see why Powell and Price bonded. Price frequently speaks in public of her ambitions, and Powell is no less determined. She lost her father when she was nine, then her mother died when Powell was 18. ‘I have had to fend for myself,’ she says, without self-pity. She has certainly been extraordinarily successful. Can Associates, the company she runs with her business partner and fiancé Neville Hendricks, is a ‘one-stop shop’ encompassing PR, management, photography, endorsement and a TV company. The girl who grew up in Stoke on Trent wanting to be a make-up artist has come a long way.
It took a phone call from Carolyn Norman, who owned The Firm, to put Powell on her future career path. ‘She said come to London and work with me – there are these five guys and I think they are going to be really big.’ The five guys were Take That, and Powell spent nearly a year on the road with the band organising media. ‘I must have had about three hours sleep a night,’ she says, ‘but I loved it, and I fed off everyone’s brain.’ When Take That’s single Could It Be Magic charted in 1993, the record label took their promotion back in-house, and Powell later set up her own company, then called Blitz. Her unique selling point was taking new bands on roadshows around the country. Her list of alumni reads like a who’s who of entertainment. ‘Ant and Dec did their first roadshows with me,’ she says. Then there was an Australian singer called Peter Andre. As his manager, Powell propelled him into the limelight via roadshows and school tours.
It was only when Andre decided to try to crack America in the late 1990s that he and Powell parted company. Powell declined to go with him to the US, but says she was crushed by his decision: ‘I had given several years of my life and helped him become one of the biggest stars in pop.’ Her refusal to put all her eggs in one basket, and abandon other clients for Andre, paid off. Andre flopped in the US, never even releasing a single. He only cracked America under Powell’s stewardship and with Price by his side. Powell says the couple had a big show lined up in the US. ‘Obviously we’ve had to tell them it’s cancelled,’ she adds.
More than a decade after Andre defected, only to return, Powell stands by her guns. She does not back one client at the expense of all others, even though the temptation to do so with a client like Price must have been immense. ‘Katie took up a lot of time,’ she admits. But if Andre can return to her after failing to go it alone, perhaps one day Price will come back too.
Claire Powell’s turning points
What was your biggest career break?
Doing PR with Take That. It made me decide what I wanted to do with my life. I put so many hours in, and I loved it. I would never have got to where I am now if I hadn’t started doing that.
Who has been your most notable mentor?
My business partner Neville Hendricks, who is also my fiancé. We are both strong characters so we clash but we are very supportive of each other. I could not do this without him and he could not do it without me. He is always telling me not to underestimate myself and he is very inspirational.
What advice would you give someone climbing the career ladder?
Always be truthful to yourself. Don’t get caught up in it all and only look after products that you really believe in. Listen and learn.
What do you prize in new recruits?
A passion for work, somebody hungry, who wants to learn and wants to achieve. In interviews I always ask them where they see themselves in a year, five years and ten years.
2000 Founds Can Associates
1995 Founds Blitz
1993 Joins Carolyn Norman at The Firm