Profile: John Coyle, Clerkenwell Communications - Surviving the trials of life/John Coyle has bounced back with the creation of a new consultancy

By his own admission, John Coyle has had more comebacks than Kylie Minogue. A founder of several agencies, including Broad Street, Square Mile and the Basham and Coyle Partnership, he has bounced back from throat cancer, the break-up of four marriages and personal bankruptcy. And now the spring-loaded financial PR specialist has done it again.

By his own admission, John Coyle has had more comebacks than Kylie

Minogue. A founder of several agencies, including Broad Street, Square

Mile and the Basham and Coyle Partnership, he has bounced back from

throat cancer, the break-up of four marriages and personal bankruptcy.

And now the spring-loaded financial PR specialist has done it again.



Last week Coyle announced he had split from long-term partner Brian

Basham, with whom he founded Broad Street and Basham and Coyle, to form

Clerkenwell Communications with Basham and Coyle colleague, Emma

Kane.



The split surprised many who knew the pair in passing, but few who knew

them well. ’They are very similar characters,’ says George Webster, who

is public affairs director at accountancy firm Deloitte and Touche and a

friend of both. ’They have great arguments. It is like diamond cutting

diamond - they are both as strong as each other.’



Sunday Business editor Jeff Randall says: ’The split didn’t surprise me.

It was not a partnership that looked like it would stay together and we

have been here before.’



Randall is referring to Coyle’s departure from Broad Street in 1988.



But Coyle insists there was no bad blood on that occasion. ’Brian

couldn’t imagine Broad Street without me, so we had a few words in the

pub, but that was just him expressing his disappointment,’ he says.



Both Basham and Coyle describe the parting as amicable this time. It is

telling though, that after more than three decades of friendship, the

best Coyle can come up with is: ’I would like to think that if we bumped

into each other, we could go and have a drink.’



Basham and Coyle’s most recent parting comes after a fundamental

disagreement over the direction of the partnership. According to Coyle,

Basham has devoted much of his time to technical investment, research

and analysis rather than PR, and believes the press is relatively

unimportant for quoted companies.



Coyle, by contrast, is a dyed-in-the-wool media relations man who lasted

less than a year as a trainee analyst at the start of his career. A

former City reporter, he is liked and respected by the financial press.

’At his best, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who understands the

needs of British journalists better,’ says Randall. ’At his worst, he is

an intellectual butterfly who flits from one subject to another and is

easily bored.’ But Randall maintains that even if Coyle dropped out of

the business and became a milkman, they would still be friends.



There is little chance of that. Coyle, who is 54, believes he has at

least another six years in the PR game, during which he intends to build

a substantial business of which he can be proud.



Clerkenwell begins life with 13 clients and a fee income of pounds

500,000 per annum. His aim is to double that by the end of its first

year and continue to double the total each subsequent year. He

eventually intends to hand over the mantle to his 31-year-old business

partner, Kane.



Coyle is sincere in his intention to retire gracefully, but whether he

will be able to give it up remains to be seen. He loves the press and

the life that goes with maintaining close relations. But he says he has

calmed down a lot from the hard-drinking, hard-living days of the

1980s.



’I just can’t do it anymore,’ he says. His friends are not so sure.



Colleagues, clients and friends alike agree that Coyle is an enigma -

fun, erratic, brilliant at times, perverse at others. Though he battled

with a cancer that robbed him of his tastebuds for three years, he still

smokes.



His cancer coincided with his being declared bankrupt - at the time,

Coyle said this was largely due to a capital gains tax bill for the

money he made when Broad Street went public. He had spent much of it on

good living and was forced to sell his stake in Square Mile for a

pittance to raise funds. Then his wife left him.



Yet he remains ebullient at the opportunities life offers. Coyle prides

himself on being tough. So he should.



HIGHLIGHTS

1981

Co-founder, Broad Street

1988

Founder, Square Mile

1997

Co-founder, Basham and Coyle Partnership

1999

Founder, Clerkenwell Communications



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