Profile: Alex Mackey, Debenhams - Talking shop at Debenhams/Alex Mackey changes direction to join the department store chain

Alex Mackey is making changes. In the past six weeks he’s married, moved house and switched jobs. While honeymooning in Thailand he accepted a job offer from Debenhams to head its communications effort as it demerges from the Burton Group.

Alex Mackey is making changes. In the past six weeks he’s married,

moved house and switched jobs. While honeymooning in Thailand he

accepted a job offer from Debenhams to head its communications effort as

it demerges from the Burton Group.



The demerger is set for mid-January, with the prospectus going out next

Monday. All the signs from analysts and City journalists look good.

Debenhams is viewed as the ’crown jewels’ of the Burton Group. Of

Burton’s pounds 187 million profit in 1996, it contributed pounds 121

million.



Mackey is charged with developing strong lines of communication with the

City and building an enlarged in-house team. He says he will use the

team already in place on the retail and fashion side, but is on the hunt

for good City operators to join them. He believes his consultancy

experience will help him get the best from Debenhams’ two agencies

Phyllis Walters and the Maitland Consultancy. No review is expected

immediately.



Mackey has been handed a wide ranging brief by chief executive Terry

Green, which is just as well, because Mackey is more spirited than the

average City PR man. Brought up as an only child in the West Country, he

turned down a place to read law at Cambridge for officer training at

Sandhurst.



During his time in the forces the then Lieutenant Mackey spent time in

the parachute regiment. He left the army after four years: ’There was a

certain sameness about army life which got to me. It also became more

politicised and I’d got all the enjoyment out of it that I could,’ he

says.



After quitting the army in 1989 at the age of 23, Mackey entered the

world of financial PR at Square Mile. John Coyle, a founder of Square

Mile, says: ’Alex was dynamic and bright. He’s good fun and a good

operator.’



Mackey freely admits that he is not a workaholic. He is a sports fanatic

and has played top class rugby for Richmond and London Irish, spends at

least an hour a day in the gym and plays for the same cricket team as

Coyle.



He left Square Mile after a year to join McAvoy Wreford Bayley, which

was subsequently bought by the Grey Group and merged into GCI

London.



Mackey was impressed with Grey’s attitude. ’It’s the only time I’ve seen

an effort put into a relationship with a PR consultancy by the senior

group partner.’



Then came moves to Grandfield, and subsequently Ludgate, via its former

Leeds agency Ludgate Barchard. By late 1995 Mackey was back in London as

a director of Ludgate Communications.



A testimony to Mackey’s engaging personality is that most of his client

base stayed loyal throughout the 1990s. Rentokil followed him from

Grandfield to Ludgate and he kept his northern clients, including

Yorkshire Electricity and retailer JJB Sports, when he moved back to

London.



While at Ludgate Mackey pursued his passion for travel. His restless

spirit took him to 18 countries last year. But one ex-colleague at

Ludgate says: ’He used to be a man about town but in the last year he’s

settled down in a big way. He’s conducted a whole rethink of his

life.’



It seems that the break with Ludgate is part of this rethink. Mackey’s

only comment on his departure from Ludgate is that he ’hated the

politics there’. However, he now has a firm direction: ’The management

atDebenhams is communications oriented and there’s excitement ahead. I

suppose I am well set,’ he admits.



Mackey particularly relishes the increased managerial responsibility he

will gain at Debenhams: ’I’m looking forward to getting the most out of

a talented group of people. I’ll be more of a manager in outlook, but

will still have my understanding of the City and my old contacts.’



It strikes you that Mackey relishes the idea of adding a bit of colour

to the world of City PR. Not content with doing a solid job, he talks of

’bringing some flair’ to Debenhams. Let’s just hope it’s ready for

him.



HIGHLIGHTS

1984

Trainee officer, Sandhurst

1989

Account executive, Square Mile

1993

Assistant director, Grandfield

1994

Managing director, Ludgate Barchard

1997

Director of corporate communications, Debenhams



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