Profile: Jim Horsley, Leedex PR - Quietly working at the forefront/Jim Horsley proves that arrogance isn’t essential for getting to the top

Jim Horsley is a difficult person to read. Polite, courteous and considerate, the new managing director of Leedex PR is deferential to the point of being faceless. There is no trace of the rampant egotism that characterises some managing directors. He doesn’t try to shock or intimidate, never corrects mistakes or tries to speak for you.

Jim Horsley is a difficult person to read. Polite, courteous and

considerate, the new managing director of Leedex PR is deferential to

the point of being faceless. There is no trace of the rampant egotism

that characterises some managing directors. He doesn’t try to shock or

intimidate, never corrects mistakes or tries to speak for you.



His office, too, bears the kind of beige computer box personality that

matches the products on which he has built much of his PR career. Indeed

computers have held a special place for Horsley ever since the

early-1980s when he had what he still regards as the major success of

his career - helping to turn engineering company Hewlett Packard into an

IT industry brand.



His new office is functional and unadorned. Indeed its most notable

characteristic is the window wall that allows him to watch the staff of

Leedex PR’s London office, a sort of VDU screen for the company’s

workings.



That’s the kind of metaphor that you know will have Horsley smiling

slightly, before he breaks eye contact. It’s as if he is processing the

metaphor before delivering his output.



Horsley started working life at the grimy end, as a local newspaper

reporter in Lincolnshire, where he spent six months door-stepping

grieving relatives in order to write obituaries for the county’s

Chronicle titles.



’Knocking on doors asking about dead relatives makes you grow up and

learn people-handling,’ he says. That interest in the way people’s minds

work winds through his career, once bringing it perilously close to a

move into therapeutics in the early-1980s, when he got heavily involved

in managing PR and finances for the Transactional Analysis Association -

a form of relationship counselling. Instead he got further into the IT

industry via in-house computer magazines, then his own IT PR agency:

Horsley Marketing and Communications.



He moved to Group PR as a board director shortly before Ketchum bought a

40 per cent stake in 1991. Ketchum was to buy out the remaining shares

held by joint managing directors Chris O’Donoghue and Pamela Poe in a

pounds 2.6 million earn-out deal over three years. But the deal never

happened, prompting a bitter legal dispute which was only settled last

March. By then O’Donoghue and Poe were long gone and Horsley was running

the show as Ketchum’s UK managing director.



Horsley reveals little about what it felt like shuttling between

directors at war with each other, their demoralised staff and their

worried shareholders.



The thing that appears to have bothered him most was having to work with

joint managing directors. Horsley says it taught him the most

significant lesson of his career. ’It was painful in terms of my

expectations. People were inflating them, then deflating them.’



Horsely left Ketchum, he says, when he was offered a joint managing

directorship himself, after it bought Scope last year.



Although Horsley survives well in tense situations you’d expect him to

have tired of them by now. But, in fact, there’s evidence that he seeks

them out. He will need all his people skills at his new agency, which

was rocked by the resignations in February, of his predecessor Jane

Howard and board director Deborah Lewis. Although the immediate trigger

for Howard’s departure was her unhappiness with controversial share

dealings in parent company Birkdale, there have been mutterings from

within the agency for some time about the management style of Birkdale’s

colourful chairman Kevin Morley.



On the plus side, Birkdale’s accounts show Leedex PR returning 25 per

cent growth against unglamorous performances from advertising and

marketing subsidiaries that left Birkdale with pounds 2.5 million losses

in 1996.



’It’s important to know where you are,’ says Horsley. ’It’s not unlike

mylast role.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1972

Reporter, Lincolnshire Chronicle

1982

Sets up Horsley Marketing and Communications

1994

UK managing director, Ketchum

1997

Managing director, Leedex PR



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