Nicola Horlick, the 35-year-old fund manager removed from her job
at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell last week, earned a reputed pounds 1 million
The reaction of the general public has, unsurprisingly, been mixed:
admiration for her undoubted pluck, astonishment at her media
manipulation, and not a little envy at the size of her pay-packet. What
almost everyone in the City agrees is that she was very good at her job
and was value for money.
It is ironic then, that certain elements in the City should choose the
very same week to register their unhappiness with the level of fees paid
to financial PR firms.
The City clearly finds it perfectly acceptable that a talented
individual should earn a seven-figure sum but balks at the same figure
being paid to a public relations firm for its part in a takeover
The reason for this schizophrenic view is that Nicola Horlick’s
contribution to the clients of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell was precisely
quantifiable, the advice of PR experts is not.
Thus it has become all too easy in this accountable age to discount the
contribution of communication experts whose input may defy accurate
measurement, but which may nevertheless be vital to a successful
Citigate, for example, may have made a great deal of money from its role
in Granada’s takeover of Forte. But if it netted a pounds 1 million fee,
that would still represent rather less than one per cent of Granada’s
total outlay on advisers and underwriters in the bid.
Since the takeover was successful one cannot imagine that the victorious
Gerry Robinson begrudges a penny to Citigate or any of his other
advisers and agents.
During the wave of massive privatisations in the 1980s, the same
questioning of fees arose with respect to advertising agencies and the
huge budgets spent on persuading ordinary folk - Sids as they have been
dubbed - to buy shares. In hindsight, it is clear that almost all of
those flotations were a great commercial success. The money spent on
advice and relevant communication pales into insignificance compared
with the sums raised from the sale of shares.
Today big companies fight big battles for big stakes. The best PR firms
and other expert advisers are the increasingly sophisticated weapons at
their disposal. Without them they risk failure, which is
In the City, reputation is a precious but fragile flower. Skilful public
relations can protect and enhance it, but while that expertise may not
come cheap, the City should recognise that it is often very good value.