PROFILE: Andrew Gifford, GJW; Charmer with political clout

Andrew Gifford prepares to enjoy another year as chairman of the APPC

Andrew Gifford prepares to enjoy another year as chairman of the APPC

The first thing you notice about Andrew Gifford, founding director of

leading lobbying firm GJW and chairman of the Association of

Professional Political Consultants for the second year running, is that

he seems to be having an immense amount of fun.

He giggles mischieviously, cracks jokes and name-drops with abandon. But

the laid-back manner is, as John Deacon, director general of the British

Phonographic Industry, observes, rather deceptive. ‘He can come across

as an amateur....though he’s not really - I’ve always found him to be

extremely shrewd’.

Now one of Britain’s top lobbying firms, with a fee income of more than

pounds 3 million in the UK last year, GJW’s origins go back to 1980 when

its three founding directors, Gifford, Wilf Weeks and Jenny Jeger (who

left in 1992), met as researchers in the House of Commons.

As PA to Liberal leader David Steel during the days of the Lib Lab pact,

Gifford was unimpressed by the lobbying activity he observed. ‘Lobbying

at that stage just didn’t seem to occur,’ he says. ‘There was hugely

controversial legislation like the aircraft and shipbuilding

nationalisations but we didn’t get any lobbying in our office even

though we were, in a sense, holding the strings of power.’

Gifford’s connections are legendary. He was a key figure for the

Liberals in three general election campaigns and still helps out ‘with

ideas and looking at what other political parties are doing’. Brother

Patrick is chairman and chief executive of Fleming Investment Trust

Management and he counts Brian Keelan, MD of SG Warburg’s corporate

finance department, among his friends.

At GJW he is renowned for his habit of coming back from a weekend’s

shooting with another piece of bid work from his City friends.

Certainly, until the launch of Lowe Bell Political, Gifford had

established a virtual monopoly in this area. He has worked on more than

100 bids and is now advising both sides of the agreed bid by MAI for

United Newspapers.

He is also one of the first people that companies turn to when the

Office of Fair Trading comes knocking. Among them was the BPI - one of

GJW’s first clients.

Despite his reputation in some quarters as a ‘fixer’, Gifford says his

role is more one of co-ordinating political and press activity and

reading the signals. ‘It’s a matter of identifying [the MMC’s] likely

remedies and then thinking what the political consequences of those

might be,’ he says.

Gifford’s triumphs have often relied as much on his skill at press

relations as pure lobbying. A breakthrough campaign for the fledgling

GJW - GEC’s bid to retain an MoD contract for heavyweight torpedoes was

swung, according to Gifford, by a well-timed headline in the Observer

which said ‘Government to buy US torpedo, 5,000 British jobs to go’.

Some criticise Gifford for being good at identifying problems but weak

on solutions. Others as ‘an ideas, not a detail man’. It would, however,

be dangerous to underestimate a man whose company managed the neat trick

of selling out for pounds 5 million (to Lowe Howard-Spink in 1987) and

then buying itself back for less than pounds 1 million five years later.

Apart from a turbulent period immediately after the buy-back, when

Gifford admits GJW ‘took its eye off the ball’ and the firm struggled to

bring in new clients, it has pursued a path of steady growth by

building up semi-autonomous specialist units in areas such as local

government, defence and healthcare. Both Gifford and Weeks, who own 51

per cent of the equity between them, are, on paper at least, multi-

millionaires. GJW is just one of Gifford’s business interests - he is

also a director of Heritage Oil and Fourth Estate, and sits on the

board of two investment trusts: London American Growth and Fleming


Commenting on the working relationship with Weeks, Gifford says: ‘He’s

nasty to people, I’m nice to them’. As for the future, Gifford insists

he is not looking to sell, though he ‘is happy to look at any options’.

A move into financial PR is also on the cards. Gifford may not be at GJW

for ever but he appears to be having too much fun to want a quick exit.


1980 Forms GJW with Wilf Weeks and Jenny Jeger

1987 GJW acquired by Lowe Howard-Spink and Bell

1992 GJW buys itself back from Lowe Group

1994 Launch of the Association of Professional Political consultants

with Gifford as chairman

1996 Gifford is re-elected as APPC chairman

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