British Gas has handed Shandwick Consultants an estimated pounds 2
million-fee assignment to advise on its demerger.
Shandwick was signed up this week after pitching against Dewe Rogerson
and Brunswick to a panel of top BG executives that included John Wybrew,
BG’s new board director for strategic planning, corporate affairs and
group marketing, to whom the agency will report.
The agency is putting a team of 20 people on the business, led by
director James Poole.
Shandwick joins a list of PR advisers which includes City and corporate
specialist Angus Maitland - accused by the Independent in December of
attempting to discredit Ofgas director general Clare Spottiswoode by
distributing ‘briefing notes’ - and BG property services’ retained PR
agency Luther Pendragon.
The appointment coincides with an overhaul of BG’s PR machine, resulting
in the ending of its pounds 200,000 contract with Sir Tim Bell’s Lowe
Bell Consultants and its decision not to renew its contract with
lobbyist Ian Greer Associates. It continues to use Lowe Bell Political
along with the Public Policy Unit for public affairs.
‘The work is no longer necessary,’ Bell told PR Week, adding: ‘We
continue to help them on the political front and hope the relationship
will grow following the demerger’.
A key part of Shandwick’s brief is to help BG win the approval of
shareholders for demerger in the spring of 1997. Shandwick Consultants
chief executive Chris Matthews stressed the company was keen to target
not just the institutional investors but to ‘take its private
shareholders, customers and staff with it’.
A BG spokesman said financial communications for the demerger project
would ‘touch on all issues that are of interest to BG stakeholders’.
Announced in February, the demerger will see BG split into two
separately quoted companies: British Gas Energy and TransCo, and is
understood to have spelled the end of BG’s ‘number 12’ or crisis-
management committee of senior PR executives on which Lowe Bell
* Mark Pendlington, BG’s head of parliamentary affairs, is taking
voluntary redundancy. Pendlington will leave at the end of April after
three years with the company.