PROFILE: Chris McLaughlin, Philip Morris; Meet the man from Marlboro

Chris McLaughlin departs from the television industry in a puff of smoke

Chris McLaughlin departs from the television industry in a puff of smoke

Talking to ex-colleagues of Chris McLaughlin, Philip Morris’s new

Europe, Middle East and Africa public affairs director, is like hearing

an exchange between two equally credible, but completely opposed

debating teams. It seems impossible they could be speaking about the

same person.

To some, McLaughlin, who has held top communications jobs at the BBC,

Carlton and British Satellite Broadcasting, is an exuberant visionary, a

great team player who loyally defends and develops his staff; but others

have described him as egotistical and temperamental.

To certain commentators, he is a strategic thinker, a straight talker

and the best PR in the broadcasting business. To others, he is a loose

cannon who misjudges situations and is over-familiar with journalists.

Only one thing seems certain, as Murray Buesst, Carlton senior press

officer, says: ‘He’s someone who elicits strong reactions and is never


Before moving into broadcasting, McLaughlin spent his PR apprenticeship

with Grayling and Charles Barker. In 1988, he was poached from Charles

Barker, where he worked on the BSB account, to become the satellite

broadcaster’s PR manager. Following BSB’s merger with Sky he moved, pre-

launch, to Carlton as head of PR. After two years with the ITV

franchise, he took the job of director of PR at BBC Enterprises, only to

leave 11 months later when the it merged with BBC Worldwide.

Since then, he has worked as a independent consultant, involved in

projects for various companies, including Larkspur Communications.

To some, McLaughlin’s move to the tobacco industry can seem a surprising

leap - although a rumoured pounds 150,000-plus salary, a European-wide

communications brief and a contributory role in the evolution of one of

the marketing of Philip Morris, the force behind Marlboro, one the

world’s most famous brands, would tempt many. Typically, views are mixed

on why he made the leap. His supporters, and there are many loyal ones,

say broadcasting’s coffers could no longer finance the salary an

operator of his calibre rightly demands. Others say that, as he cares

passionately about British broadcasting, he no longer wants to work in

an industry which, he perceives, is being ruined by liberalisation and

in which programme budgets are being slashed.

Others are less generous. They think his personality has made

himunemployable in the broadcasting industry, hence his failure, despite

being perfectly qualified for the job, to beat Sally Osman this June to

the post of Channel 5’s head of corporate and public relations.

Whatever the reasons for the move, his ability to operate in a pressured

environment - he has worked through a launch with Carlton; a merger with

BSB and Sky - well equips him to be a spokesman for the tobacco


However, with his reputation for straight-talking and for taking the

centre-stage, it will be interesting, to see how he fits into Philip

Morris, a company whose spokespeople are known for being tight-lipped.

Jane Gash, who worked for McLaughlin at Charles Barker, as his PR

assistant, and at Carlton, as his marketing and PR manager, predicts he

will prove invaluable to Philip Morris. ‘Chris is good at building and

melding a team around him, he has lots of drive and enthusiasm and he

loves to challenge conventional thinking. There are not a lot of people

like him around,’ she says.

Another former colleague is not so convinced: ‘If Philip Morris wants

someone who will very carefully develop a party line and not talk, at

the first opportunity, on everything, they’ve probably got the wrong


Whatever the outcome, McLaughlin’s new employers can be sure - to

paraphrase Murray Buesst - his tenure will never be dull.


1983 Account executive, Grayling

1985 Account manager, Charles Barker

1988 PR manager, BSB

1992 Head of PR, Carlton

1994 PR director, BBC Enterprises

1996 EMEA public affairs director, Philip Morris

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