PROFILE: Chris Hopson, Granada Media Group; A firm footing on the board

Chris Hopson proves that PR people are the stuff that directors are made of

Chris Hopson proves that PR people are the stuff that directors are made

of



Chris Hopson is a case of substance over style. At 33, he has convinced

Granada Group’s recently created division, Granada Media Group, that his

new role of corporate affairs director deserves a place at the boardroom

table. It is a position few in the PR industry achieve and one which

carries its fair share of challenges.



Granada has made little secret of its ambitious plans for expansion both

organically and by acquisition. It already owns Granada TV and LWT, has

a stake in Granada Sky Broadcasting - which launches seven channels

later this year - the Granada motorway service stations, TV sales house

Laser and Forte hotels. Hopson, who was involved with the 1994 LWT and

this year’s Forte acquisitions, also has a group role working to Granada

Group chief executive Charles Allen.



Although the bulk of his 42 staff are involved in programme publicity,

Hopson has another new area of responsibility with regulatory affairs -

dealing with licence renewals and lobbying for the Channel 4 funding

formula to be maintained.



Hopson’s own background is in politics as a former stalwart of the SDP.

Starting out as a constituency agent, he worked his way up to

parliamentary researcher for MP Rosie Barnes and later director of

elections and campaigns. At the still tender age of 26 he was made party

chief executive working directly to David Owen.



Born in Newbury Berkshire, the second son of a family which owns the

Camp Hopson department store in Newbury, Hopson got an early taste for

politics. As an exchange student in the US he worked part time for

Republican senator Bill Roth, whose main claim to fame was the part he

played in pushing through Reagan’s tax bill.



Back in the UK at the University of Sussex he was branded an extreme

right winger for his involvement with the SDP.



Despite completing an MBA at Cranfield four years ago, because he wanted

to ‘develop business skills to complement his political experience’, he

went straight back into politics as special advisor to David Mellor,

during his short spell at the Department of National Heritage. He denies

that it was his idea to get Mellor to pose for the much derided photos

with his family after his affair with the would-be actress Antonia de

Sancha hit the headlines, adding ‘had I been in his role I would have

played it very differently’.



Still, his six-month stint with Mellor gave him a good grounding in

broadcast legislation. It was to stand him in good stead for his role at

Granada which he joined in 1993 as director of public affairs after a

brief six-month sojourn with Granada’s agency at the time, The

Communication Group.



‘I have learnt more in the last three years than in all the previous

years put together. But I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now without

the MBA. Many people in PR only know the disciplines involved with their

function. One of the requirements for senior PR people is a range of

business skills which allows them to look at strategy and understand the

language of different functions,’ says Hopson.



The MBA did more than help him with his business strategy - he also met

his wife on the course. Hopson is not a typical ‘mee-ja luvvie’. Nor is

he a clothes horse. But he is eminently likeable. He’s got a wry sense

of humour, intelligence and a healthy knack of talking to you - rather

than at you - and not in soundbites.



But he is coy about his own political aspirations which he has

deliberately put on hold while working for Granada. He believes it would

be ‘unfair to be lobbying a political party while standing against it’.



But the interest is definitely there and his job with Mellor leaves

little doubt about which party he would want to stand for. Given his

credentials, he probably stands a good chance of success.



HIGHLIGHTS



1989 Chief executive, Social Democrat Party

1989 Consultant, Corporate Communications Strategy

1992 Special adviser to David Mellor, Secretary of State for National

Heritage

1993 Director of public affairs, Granada

1996 Corporate affairs director Granada Media Group



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