John Antcliffe will not be at the Fleet Street offices of Bell
Pottinger Financial for much longer. Next month he moves across the City
to Cowcross Street to set up another agency in the Chime Communications
network called Smithfield Financial.
But for now he is having to juggle his Bell Pottinger client handling
with the arrangements for setting up Smithfield. The day before we meet
he handled the Bank of Ireland’s results and was also right in the
middle of recruiting for the new venture.
But after two years at Bell Pottinger he is relishing the challenge of
setting up Smithfield. The new agency will specialise in offering
financial PR and IR advice to companies across Europe and will seek to
challenge the likes of Dewe Rogerson in cross-border mergers and
It will also have a UK focus though and will start off with clients
including Stagecoach and Scottish and Newcastle.
Antcliffe is clearly a sharp operator but says that the values of
caution and solid preparation inform his client handling. However, his
career has also been colourful. During his time as a corporate financier
at Rothschild’s he worked on the planning and advertising team which
dreamed up British Gas’ ’Sid’ campaign for its privatisation. His
communications skills became apparent on such projects and he became
corporate affairs director Rothschild’s in 1991.
Antcliffe helps the Royal Albert Hall on a voluntary basis, an activity
he began while at Rothschild’s, when the merchant bank used to block
book seats at the venue. He sits on both the Albert Hall’s advisory
council and sales and marketing committee.
Throughout the 1980s he devoted most of his spare time to pursuing a
political career. He joined the Conservative Party at the age of 15 and
was elected as a councillor on Greenwich Borough Council in 1985. His
attempts to go one better as an MP failed though, when he was twice
beaten to the seat by Rosie Barnes in a by-election and subsequent
general election in the Greenwich constituency.
Those close to him think he would have made a good MP due to his speed
at coming to grips with various issues and sectors and his communication
skills. But it is something that Antcliffe confirms will now never
He still helps out at a grassroots level in Greenwich, where he was
born, and offers occasional advice at higher levels in the Party. He
knows both William Hague and Francis Maude well. Peter Oborne, political
correspondent on the Express on Sunday, knows Antcliffe well: ’He is one
of the best two or three PR operators in London. He is highly
intelligent, has a knowledge of his field and what makes him unique is
that while he has an understanding of the City and political world he
has a much better eye for a story than most journalists.’
It seems that Lord Bell, chairman of Chime Communications, has ensured
that he has the right balance of skills at the helm of Smithfield.
Antcliffe will work alongside fellow Bell Pottinger director John Kiely,
who will become managing director of Smithfield. Bell says: ’John
Antcliffe is a terrifically reliable and self-confident operator. Both
he and John Kiely have reached a stage where they have to try some of
their own ideas.’
Others agree that Antcliffe and Kiely will work well as a team. Oborne
says: ’Kiely is solid, fun to be with and trustworthy. Antcliffe has
strategic brilliance and sees the big picture in a way few people
And, as he proved in politics, Antcliffe has dedication. He likens his
support for the Conservatives to that of a football team. During the
1980s he would travel halfway across the country to knock on doors
during local elections.
Smithfield’s team is ambitious and Antcliffe hopes to be running a
20-strong agency within a year. And why not, if he feels as passionate
about the new business as he does about politics.
Corporate finance executive, NM Rothschild and Son
Corporate affairs director, NM Rothschild and Son
Director, Dewe Rogerson
Director, Bell Pottinger Financial
Chairman, Smithfield Financial