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
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
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
’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
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.
Co-founder, Broad Street
Founder, Square Mile
Co-founder, Basham and Coyle Partnership
Founder, Clerkenwell Communications