Days after sealing the deal to sell her PR agency to advertising
group Abbott Mead Vickers for pounds 4.25 million, Aurelia Cecil jetted
off for a two week holiday in the Bahamas.
Tempting as it is to imagine Cecil hot-footing it off to a tropical
beach with her suitcases of cash and smug smile on her face, nothing is
further from the truth.
She only received pounds 300,000 in cash, plus another pounds 240,000 in
AMV loan notes. The rest will be paid in six annual payments dependent
on Aurelia Public Relations’ performance.
So the size of her fortune depends on her continuing to lead the PR
agency she founded in 1990 at the tender age of 23.
The last month has been a flurry of activity for Cecil. While finalising
the details of her deal with AMV with its PR subsidiary Freud
Communications, she also had the unenviable task of acting as UK
spokeswoman for Gianni Versace following the designer’s assassination.
’My diary hasn’t been my own,’ she told PR Week during a break from
packing for her holiday.
Cecil started her luxury brands consumer agency from her mews house in
South Kensington with a pounds 7,000 NatWest small business loan. ’At 23
you have no modesty. I sat at the desk and I hit the telephones.’
Perella Bridgland, a former colleague during the early years at Aurelia,
says Cecil ’has endless self belief’.
Cecil now employs over 20 staff, has an office in Chelsea, a big house
in Knightsbridge, and only cold-calls potential new clients ’maybe once
or twice a year’.
She remains managing director of Aurelia PR and will keep a firm grip on
her business, although she now reports to a board of directors including
Nick Wiszowaty, managing director of Freud Communications, also owned by
Cecil is ready to take advantage of the international opportunities
offered by AMV, now that she has achieved what she set out to do in the
UK. ’I wanted to work with the best brands in the field. We don’t have
the cars but we have the other bits and bobs.’
Her client list reads like a trust-fund babe’s shopping list: Salvatore
Ferragamo, Krug Champagne, TAG Heuer watches, Gianni Versace ...
’I’ve always looked up to Lynne Franks,’ says Cecil, who is taking
Franks’ autobiography on holiday with her. Admirers compare the two PR
women, describing Cecil as the defining individual in her section of the
market for the 1990s.
The comparisons end here. ’She isn’t really wrapped up in that world,’
says Stephen Quinn, publishing director of Vogue. He describes her as
crisp and efficient, but warm with it.
Cecil has a title, which she plays down, ’It’s only a small one’. Her
father William is a baron, Lord Amherst of Hackney and she is the
Honourable Aurelia Cecil. At first glance her background does not appear
to be one from which a young woman would wish to propel herself into the
cut-throat world of agency PR.
But her parents are both professionals. Her mother was an interior
designer and her father was a successful shipbroker. Her first love was
for horses, and although an accomplished rider, she changed tack at 20
and headed for the world of fashion. After searching unsuccessfully for
a job as a fashion journalist, she launched into PR. Riding horses was
never a long term option, says Cecil, because it didn’t make any
Simon Brocklebank-Fowler, managing director of Citigate Corporate and a
friend of Cecil’s puts her professionalism down to her training as a
He says: ’There’s a part of her that would dearly love to be eventing in
the British Olympic riding squad and when she didn’t get there I think
she said to herself ’I will never fail again’.’
Like her clients she has a strong sense of identity. ’Her agency is very
important to her. It defines who she is and clients have seen that from
the beginning,’ says Brocklebank-Fowler.
Cecil has neither husband nor children, but she nearly always has a
friend staying with her at home. ’My social life is quite important to
me,’ she explains.
And so what will she do with her newly acquired fortune? ’I’ll invest
bits here and there, I’m quite careful with money. I’m not the flashy
car type, probably because I’m a terrible driver.’
1988 - Joined womens wear designer Caroline Charles, later becoming PR
1990 - Founded Aurelia PR
1997 - Abbott Mead Vickers buys Aurelia PR for pounds 4.25 million