Profile: Neil Garnett, Ludgate Communications - A cool hand for Ludgate - Neil Garnett is one PR man who will relish rising to the challenge at Ludgate

As the former group PR director of GrandMet, Neil Garnett has just helped steer through Britain’s biggest ever merger. ’I’ve still got a full head of hair and it’s not too grey,’ he laughs. Yet the Garnett barnet bears no mark of the months of toil, nor the end result which was to put him out of a job.

As the former group PR director of GrandMet, Neil Garnett has just

helped steer through Britain’s biggest ever merger. ’I’ve still got a

full head of hair and it’s not too grey,’ he laughs. Yet the Garnett

barnet bears no mark of the months of toil, nor the end result which was

to put him out of a job.



Now Garnett is about to become head of the corporate division at

financial PR firm Ludgate Communications.



He has a record of unflappability. GrandMet and its partner Guinness

faced a barrage of problems: mutiny from a very vocal shareholder,

Bernard Arnault of LVMH; regulators queuing up to gouge chunks out of

the combined business; the logistical nightmare of 65,000 staff finding

out about their future in the daily papers; and then the blanket, and

confidence-sapping, derision at the new company’s consultant-born name

Diageo.



Garnett says it was an exciting time and colleagues have nothing but

praise for his performance. Charles Anson, former group corporate

relations director at GrandMet, says he is very professional, and has a

thorough understanding of business. Garnett studied accountancy as part

of a business and management degree, although he never went on to be a

practising accountant.



Colleagues describe him as a very good manager, a team player with an

excellent sense of humour. (He must have: the man is still tippling on

Bailey’s even now his GrandMet discount has gone).



His next role, heading the coporate division at Ludgate Communications

promises to be just as challenging. Last year, communications giant

Interpublic decided to beef up its McCann-Erickson PR business and

swallowed up Ludgate.



It folded the firm into US consultancy Weber Public Relations Worldwide,

another acquisition and now the umbrella for all the group’s

activities.



Four directors quit in January, on top of the eight who have departed

over the previous 15 months. And the corporate division’s staff numbers

have fallen from 24 in its heyday to 15. Although the aim is there to

recruit two more consultants, as one observer remarks: ’it has taken

quite a lot of heart out of the business’.



The corporate division brings in 22 per cent of fee revenue but has not

worked on a big City deal since the flotation of former building society

Northern Rock and regional newspaper publisher Newsquest’s share offer,

both last October. No wonder director Nick Fitzherbert says the firm was

’looking for a star’.



Fortunately, Garnett knows how bankers think, having worked at TSB

during its flotation, later, he advised the bank’s new chairman, Sir

Nicholas Goodison, on communicating his management team’s strategy to

the City.



Garnett is well-equipped to deliver on Ludgate’s aspirations to provide

a global service now that it is part of an international network.

Between TSB, where he first moved into PR, and GrandMet, he spent two

years as head of corporate communications at multinational energy

company Texaco.



There he campaigned, successfully, for more openness and information,

and re-focused media programmes to centre on innovation.



Part of his challenge at Ludgate Communications will be to explain how

clients can benefit from being part of the Weber network. ’Not everyone

would be aware how we fit into the group,’ he ventures.



However, Weber is now beginning to act like one company: last week, in

Florida, all the constituent parts got together for the first time ever,

including the recently-acquired German agency B&L. There is already talk

about using Weber’s hi-tech expertise both to communicate internally and

to service clients. Whatever happens, there is little doubt that Garnett

will thrive. And there will be no point at all in looking for the real

story in the state of his resilient ’do’.



HIGHLIGHTS

1977 - Sales representative, Elida Gibbs

1987 - Chief press officer, TSB Group

1989 - Head of corporate communications, Texaco

1993 - Group PR director, GrandMet

1998 - Head of corporate division, Ludgate Communiccations



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