Public Affairs: Portland pounces for FD man

Agency moves FD left reeling as second senior consultant quits for Portland.

The top lobbyist at financial consultancy FD has quit, leaving a question mark hanging over the future of its public affairs practice.

Senior vice-president for public affairs Tony Pilch will join Portland as an associate director.

Pilch is a former research fellow at The Smith Institute, and worked as a policy adviser in Downing Street.

He is the second senior FD consultant to sign for Tim Allan's agency in recent weeks, following the departure of Nicola Gilchrist, also senior V-P for public affairs at FD.

FD also recently lost another consultant, Lucy Gilchrist, to the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party.

When Pilch joined FD in December 2007, the practice had around 23 public affairs staff. It is now understood to have just five full-time public affairs consultants - four of whom were recently transferred across from FD's planning division.

One industry source with close connections to FD said: 'With Nicola and Tony gone, there must be a big question mark over the future of that part of FD.' But FD told PRWeek it remained fully committed to public affairs.

UK CEO Geoffrey Pelham-Lane said the public affairs team would now move across to parent firm FTI's UK economic consulting public policy practice. The team will be led by Damian Leeson, a former public affairs chief at Prudential, who already heads up this unit at FTI.

FD's public affairs practice was set up as Lawson Lucas Mendelsohn (LLM) in the wake of Labour's 1997 general election victory. The lobbying firm was acquired by FD in 2005 for around £4m, it is believed.

The agency's biggest remaining public affairs clients are pub retailer Greene King, engineering and construction firm KBR and publisher TSL Education.

Portland has also further bolstered its Conservative credentials with the hire of Gardant Communications consultant Matthew Stockwell.

Before joining Gardant in 2008, Stockwell worked in Parliament for Tory leader David Cameron during his leadership election campaign and then for senior Tory MPs Hugo Swire and Andrew Robathan.

In the other direction, Henry de Zoete is leaving Portland to become a Conservative Party press officer.

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