Profile: Nick Jones, Lucas Varity - A diplomatic PR approach/Nick Jones is not one to admit impediments to the marriage of two firms

Nick Jones’ appointment as group communications director at Anglo-American car components group Lucas Varity has brought him full circle.

Nick Jones’ appointment as group communications director at

Anglo-American car components group Lucas Varity has brought him full

circle.



His first job 19 years ago was with a US company - Eaton Corporation,

also a manufacturer of automotive components. A scholarship student of

international relations first at the University of North Carolina and

then Georgetown University, Jones spent a total of 16 years in the US,

the last five of it with oil company Conoco.



Apart from the tell-tale mid-Atlantic inflection the evidence of his

time there is in his lack of English reserve. ’You feel like he’s

slapping you on the back all the time,’ says one press contact. ’It’s a

bit in-your-face the first time you come in contact with him.’



Jones’ friendly and excitable manner seems particularly out of place in

the rather austere and reserved atmosphere of Anglo-Dutch publishing

giant Reed Elsevier, where he has been director of corporate relations

for two years.



The result of the merger three years ago of British publisher Reed

International (owner of IPC) and Dutch firm Elsevier, Reed Elsevier has

a reputation for caution where the press is concerned. To make Jones’

job even more difficult, he has not one but two bosses: co-chairmen

Nigel Stapleton in the UK and Herman Bruggink in the Netherlands.



’The great challenge for someone in his position and for someone as

outgoing as Nick is to try and keep in well with both the Dutch and the

English management,’ says one observer. ’His approach has been to

arrange access to the senior executives as much as possible and to keep

out of the front line.’



Then there is the company’s zeal for cutting central overheads. What was

once a nine-strong corporate communications department when Jones joined

from PR consultancy Good Relations in 1990, is now just him and a

secretary.



Jones, as always, points to the positives - the fact that technology has

made the information dissemination role less labour intensive and the

enjoyment he gets from being involved with every aspect of corporate

communications.



The one telling moment in our interview comes when I suggest we take his

picture in the plush downstairs foyer of Reed Elsevier’s Mayfair HQ

rather than his own anonymous office on the third floor. Jones is

nervous in case Stapleton walks in during the shoot. In the end,

Stapleton was out.



For all the bonhomie, it is difficult to get a real flavour of

Jones.



He talks animatedly about his time as aide to former US ambassador to

the UK, Anne Armstrong and the ’sheer scale, in breadth and depth’ of

American politics.



In terms of his personal life, he seems devoted to his family - his

wife, fashion journalist Christine Probert and their three young

children. A farmer’s son, his main passions are cricket and racing, he

is also involved in several charities. But try to get him to talk about

the pressures of the Reed Elsevier merger and the difficulties of

working for two bosses and Jones is unshakeably diplomatic.



He will need all his diplomatic skills in his new job, which he takes up

in April. Like Reed Elsevier, Lucas Varity is the result of a

cross-border merger - of UK company Lucas and American firm Varity. Six

months on the company is struggling to meet the differing demands of two

sets of investors - last week its shares slipped to a post-merger low of

200p.



Certainly Jones’ style - the barely contained nervous energy - should

fit well with his new boss, Varity chief executive Victor Rice, who has

a reputation for shooting from the hip.



Jones’ former boss at Reed, Jan Shawe, now director of corporate

communications at Prudential, is in little doubt that it will work.

’Nick’s a lovely bloke, very bright, very international and the perfect

choice for the Lucas Varity merger,’ she says.



HIGHLIGHTS

1981

International analysi, Conoco Inc

1987

Associate director, Good Relations

1990

Deputy director of corporate relations, Reed International

1995

Director of corporate relations, Reed Elsevier

1997

Group communications director, Lucas Varity



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