A former Spear’s Reputation Lawyer of the Year, Jenny Afia acts for the most recognisable faces among the ‘superstars and super-rich’ that Schillings counts as clients. It’s certainly been a ‘busy’ few years for her and them. Afia downplays the hardcharging approach the firm first became famous for – but when justice and fairness are at stake you’d be wise to have her on your side. ‘When someone’s privacy has been genuinely infringed, or when children are involved, I feel really strongly about that’, she says. Afia acted in one of the biggest privacy cases of recent years – that of ‘PJS’ – which forbade the Sun on Sunday and the rest of the UK press from detailing a celebrity threesome, despite extensive international and online coverage. ‘The argument was that because the information was available in America and online, it was pointless to maintain an injunction in England,’ she told […]
Welcome to the Spear’s Indices
Each issue of Spear’s Magazine contains an exclusive Index prepared by the experts at the Spear’s Research Unit identifying the very best providers of professional services to the high net worth audience. Comprehensive, authoritative and indispensible, these are the definitive lists of the top HNW advisers in Britain working in property, family law, wealth management, tax and trust, alternative assets and reputation management. Once a year the Indices are updated and expanded to form the core of the Spear’s 500, the bible of HNW advisers. Go to the drop down menu below for the latest indices of top professionals from the Spear’s Research Unit
Reputation Managers 2018
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‘Preparation and prevention is the best way to deal with things, as it’s much harder once the cat’s out of the bag,’ says Gideon Benaim, the star turn at Simkins, referring to a fraught media environment. It’s certainly working for him: Benaim has a host of corporate clients, as well as entertainment and sports clients, and relishes the varied work: ‘It doesn’t matter whether we’re in a recession or the opposite, it seems that we need both lawyers and managers.’ Any frustrations in the job? ‘What’s frustrating with improper behaviour is that everything is grouped together. Some are serious, such as rape, and others are stupid comments, and they’re treated as the same. The same atmosphere of scandal surrounds each story.’ Benaim also says the tax landscape is changing rapidly. ‘In the past, evasion – ie illegal behaviour – would be the newsworthy thing. Now it doesn’t matter that it’s all […]
Self-confessed ‘PR consigliere’ and founder of Right Angles Paul Blanchard advises CEO s and global thought leaders, none of whom ‘want publicity for its own sake’. He emphasises the need for personability: ‘Does the MD really need to be as painfully honest in that blog post? Yes, in fact they do, otherwise you’re not going to get any attention for it.’ It’s a lesson he learnt from his years in politics: ‘No one cares about process or the corporate line. People are wanting to connect with people.’ When not leading a team of 20 senior specialists, Blanchard is also an author, media commentator and speaker. His ‘Media Masters’ podcast is one of the most popular media podcasts globally.
Magnus Boyd first joined Schillings in the early 2000s from a small Fleet Street firm defending newspapers. He moved on to other firms before returning to Schillings in 2015 as a partner. Recently, he says, clients ‘are coming to us not after the journalist has called for comment, but increasingly, clients are coming at a much earlier stage to avoid getting into those positions in the first place’. Boyd says the key to protecting reputation is prevention: ‘There are still things you can do once something’s been published – but you need to act fast, it’s more expensive, it takes more work to get something taken down.’
A seasoned operator known for his discretion, Simon Brewer founded AV Premier Marketing 20 years ago after 18 years in the City. Initially focused on consumer PR for luxury brands, he began advising UHNWs after coming into contact with company directors ‘who sometimes need PR themselves’. Spear’s catches up with Brewer in the aftermath of a private party’s appearance on Instagram: ‘Working with individuals is more rewarding, because you have a far more defined role… you really can manage things terribly well,’ he says. Have the rules of PR changed recently? ‘The most important old principle with UHNWs is trust – if you haven’t got that, you aren’t going anywhere.’
Senior associate Persephone Bridgman Baker has wisdom beyond her years. She recalls an important case early in her career, representing Lance Bombardier Kerry-Ann Morris, who was wrongfully linked to a murder story and received a public apology. ‘Reading the statement in open court for her was one of the most seminal moments of my career,’ she says. ‘I understood how much of what we do can change somebody’s life.’ Bridgman Baker says even judges need to adapt to social media, so she is enthused by Justice Warby’s approach to judgments. ‘He’s very proactive in this area and is trying to listen to lawyers and see how things can be improved.’
‘I would say we’re known as the secret service of the crisis and corporate communications space,’ says Simon Brocklebank-Fowler, who founded Cubitt Consulting in 1998. Spear’s is lucky, as the former diplomat and banker admits he’s not usually one for interviews. Clients include billionaires, HNW entrepreneurs, family offices, FTSE 100 companies, UK and foreign governments. He points to one substantial client: ‘We are the lead adviser to the government of Bermuda globally on the Paradise Papers.’ Brocklebank-Fowler enjoys his work because ‘you can get better and better at it every year’. He adds: ‘It’s definitely a game where mileage makes champions.’
After training at a City firm and working in commercial litigation, Mike Brookes joined Lee & Thompson 20 years ago. He leads its reputation protection team and acts for HNWs and celebrities from music, film, TV, theatre and sport. A highlight of 2017 was acting for a Moroccan prince against an online publisher and successfully establishing, in the Court of Appeal, that both a Data Protection Act claim and a libel claim can be brought at the same time. ‘It’s real, you can relate to it,’ Brookes says of his work. But he adds that ‘a lot of what we do never sees the newspapers. If we do our job right, and the client comes to us at the right time, then there is no story.’
Called to the bar in 1975 and taking silk in 1994, Andrew Caldecott QC has represented clients in some of the most high-profile defamation law and privacy cases of recent decades. He has been instructed by a wide range of broadcasters, publishing houses, corporations, UK and foreign governments, as well as by celebrities and government ministers. Select highlights include representing the Guardian during the Leveson Inquiry and bringing about Naomi Campbell’s landmark privacy ruling in the House of Lords. Caldecott has acted in countless breach of confidence and data protection cases – including representing Google – as well as on matters relating to reporting restrictions, contempt of court and obscenity. He is particularly noted for his reputation in Supreme Court cases. Caldecott has been a tenant of One Brick Court, a media and information chambers, since 1976. But his skills are not limited to the law, as he is also a […]
‘Some people are intrinsically more interesting to the world and some become interesting because of their actions,’ says Schillings chief executive Rod Christie-Miller. He handles privacy and reputation crises for a select few clients and their families, most of whom live in the Middle East. He believes there will be more stories like the Paradise and Panama Papers. ‘Our job is going to be much more about helping people to be safer online, cautious with what information they give and acting differently and “better” to avoid doing things that are going to get them into trouble,’ he says. Christie-Miller joined the firm 15 years ago, after starting his legal career at Bird & Bird.
Life has been ‘extraordinarily busy’ for Payne Hicks Beach’s litigation partner, who arrives for a meeting with Spear’s with folding bike in hand. ‘There’s little time to pause for breath,’ he says. Dominic Crossley is known for previously representing 53 core participant victims at the Leveson Inquiry, not to mention former F1 boss Max Mosley in a landmark privacy case. His clientele is ‘an eclectic mix’ ranging from politics and sport to academia and the corporate world. A recent influx of cases has seen Crossley’s team expand: he was pleased to report the hiring of the talented Hanna Basha and Nick Grant from Hill Dickinson into the team. A particular highlight was his ‘tremendous success’ in the Issam Hourani libel, in which a Lebanese multimillionaire was wrongly linked to the death of a Russian TV star. Warding off the resulting propaganda was a pursuit both complex and thrilling for Crossley. Crossley […]
‘When the phone rings, you literally do not know what the issue is going to be. Sometimes that makes it very challenging but equally keeps it interesting,’ says David Engel, a partner at Addleshaw Goddard since 2001. He says clients face reputational and privacy risks from a range of sources, citing competitors, pressure groups, employees or customers posting comments online, and issues with regulators. ‘They’re all reputational, but nothing to do with the media,’ he notes. What does he enjoy about his work? ‘The adrenalin of the pressure – it’s often quite urgent, and ultimately the job satisfaction of being able to achieve the objective the client wants.’
Terence Fane-Saunders ‘stumbled into PR’ through a family friend and has worked across every area from financial to corporate and international crises. The Chelgate founder says he enjoys ‘intellectually demanding strategic PR’. Clients range from governments to insurance companies and individuals. ‘There’s one African country where I’ve counselled three of the last four presidents,’ he says. Fane-Saunders strikes a different tone from most in his industry: ‘What matters most is not what you say, it’s what you do.’ Explaining his two-fold approach, he says ‘you look at getting the behaviour right and then you look at the communications’.
Michael Farrant rejoices at how the importance of strategic communications for wealthy families has finally come to the fore, having lobbied for it himself for a decade. ‘It’s becoming kind of mainstream now,’ he says. The world is becoming more transparent: ‘It’s no longer the right approach to stay 100 per cent below the radar.’ Requests for advice are streaming in from regions where staying secretive is the cultural norm. The astute and highly personable Harvard graduate travels to where the demand is. ‘You have to understand clients’ environment, you have to humbly go and see what they are facing and learn from them,’ says Farrant.
When he set up his namesake firm in 1985, Matthew Freud didn’t know he was breaking a family tradition precluding family members from following the same career as anyone in the previous three generations. He later found that Edward L Bernays, considered the founder of public relations, was his great-uncle. One could argue that it was a tradition well worth interrupting – today freuds is one of the country’s leading communication agencies, counting Mars, Toyota and Public Health England among its clients. But Freud, who serves as executive chairman, is still ‘very involved’ with key clients, managing partner Ed Amory tells Spear’s, as the business fuses its corporate and consumer practices (‘audiences can no longer be pigeon-holed’) and brings together eight sister businesses under the brand umbrella of ‘The Brewery’. PR firms are also increasingly aware that their own reputations are at stake when working with new clients, Amory adds, but […]
Claire Gill is working on two big cases against Google which go to trial next year, acting for clients claiming for alleged data breaches and misuse of private information arising from search results. Both cases ‘involve an important point of principle about how the public can access information via Google search engines,’ says Gill, who has been at Carter-Ruck since 1994. Gill’s main focus is defamation and privacy, plus data protection and protection from harassment. She has also been providing urgent trouble-shooting advice pre-publication or pre-broadcast: ‘If you can keep private information out of the press you can have a really big impact, as the reverse can often be devastating.’
Rory Godson founded Powerscourt in 2004 and counts FTSE 100 companies and HNWs among his clients. He started out as a journalist and was business editor of the Sunday Times before switching to corporate affairs. Journalism ‘taught me to deal with multiple sources addressing challenging issues under great time pressure’ he reflects. Godson tells Spear’s the greatest reputation risks his clients face include being ‘unfairly in the firing line on a new pet passion – Brexit’ and the proliferation of data. ‘I love to help clients navigate uncharted territory, protecting them from their enemies and getting them home safe. The tougher and more complex it is, the better.’
‘The British population sniffs decay, it sniffs failure, it sniffs ambition.’ That’s the case in politics, according to Andrew Grant, founder of Tulchan, but it’s also an important aspect of reputation management. He is mindful of the need to encourage corporate clients to find their own voice. ‘It is actually about the very precise choice of words, and the important thing is they have to be the kind of words that people repeat. They have to be really powerful,’ he explains to Spear’s. Grant also offers insights about the modern corporate world. ‘Among older people there has been deference to big companies,’ he says, adding that ‘young people are more likely to protest. We’re trying to encourage companies not to issue great ultimatums. You have to win the argument; you can’t just make grand statements.’ He specialises in advising CEOs. ‘CEOs are getting younger – a lot of them are in […]
The founder of PHA Media cherishes clients who have stayed with the company since the firm’s inception 12 years ago. ‘The loyalty shown to us by clients proves there must be something right,’ he says. Phil Hall is pleased with the momentum the 90-strong company continues to gain, with turnover ‘increasing every year’. PHA Media attracted more than 30 new clients in 2017. ‘The old adage “Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper” is no longer the case.’ the former News of the World editor says. News ‘is now there for ever and it’s an issue’. Perpetrators can go to great lengths to defame someone. ‘In our experience you can get people making allegations in a legal case to just try to bring the other side to settle – they exaggerate their claims and twist the facts.’ The good news is that Hall, who is known for protecting Sir Cliff […]
Charlotte Harris represents a range of high-profile clients – she has acted for more than 100 claimants in the phone hacking claims since 2007. Harris says she has seen the department at Kingsley Napley thrive since she joined from Mishcon de Reya in 2015. ‘We’ve very much developed the criminal media-support side,’ she says. ‘Any individuals associated with a firm under investigation can appear on the front cover of a newspaper.’ She also focuses on freedom of speech work with people who write publicly and need to be defended against ‘opportunistic’ claims. This includes (but is not limited to) shutting down those trying to harass or blackmail her clients.
‘PR is a term that is no longer fit for purpose,’ says Patrick Harrison, referring to the ‘information revolution’ phenomenon. Most clients, he says, are looking for a mixed communications response, which includes data analytics, content creation and SEO, as well as traditional media relations methods. The solutions, he adds, require more creativity than ever. ‘It’s a pretty exciting place to be!’ Weber Shandwick’s director of reputation and media relations has been busy preparing his clientele, ranging from ministers to CEOs across the EMEA region, with a ‘twin track’ approach to face the most pressing issues of 2018: data breach and GDPR compliance. The guidance of Harrison, previously Prince Charles’s press secretary, is even more valuable in these areas now that businesses are facing ‘increasing disruption’ from the digital sphere. The PR industry is not exempt from the disruption – the reporting of the Bell Pottinger scandal shows it has ‘extended […]
Paddy Harverson set up Milltown Partners in 2013, having been the Prince of Wales’s right-hand man and, before that, director of communications at Manchester United. The business is a partnership between Harverson and DJ Collins, Google’s former London communications head. Milltown Partners offers discreet, high-stakes advice to a number of big names, whom the firm has too much discretion to reveal. However, a peer confides to Spear’s that Harverson ‘acts for some of the biggest names in the corporate and HNW world’. The firm has also been expanding its portfolio and influence. Harverson is known to be working with British Cycling on its defence in relation to allegations of bullying, sexism and various acts of discrimination. It is also widely believed – although not confirmed – that Milltown represents the Saudi government. Having also worked for the Financial Times, Harverson is known for his deep understanding of the journalism profession. […]
‘I deal with problems, so I see myself as a fixer,’ says Jonathan Hawker, a one-man-band who’s dealt with crises arising from all manner of misconduct, from white-collar crime (including the largest fraud in Europe) to corporate and individual disputes. ‘It’s the usual, what we call “relationship problems”,’ he says coolly of 2017, the highlight of which was the landmark shareholder action against RBS, which settled before trial. ‘The truth of the matter is, disputes can arise out of any transaction.’ What gives him the biggest buzz is extricating clients from a situation ‘where it all looks bleak’. The corporate world is rife with crises, as corporations are increasingly prone to cyberattacks and blackmail. ‘A lot of organisations and individuals think it’s a sad fact of life and a cost to business these days,’ he says. ‘It sticks in the stomach, really, when you have to continue paying criminals in […]
James Heath was lead solicitor in hacking litigation against Mirror Group, which has seen more than 80 cases brought to court. He also acted for social worker Sylvia Henry in the Baby P libel action. ‘It makes you realise that the social worker simply can’t win, whether they take the child away or decide not to,’ he says. A reputation management solicitor needs to be ‘measured, calm and pragmatic’, says Heath. Stamina and organisation also help, as a recent (successful) case acting for former military intelligence agent Ian Hurst against News Group Newspapers taught him: ‘It has been pointed out to me that the case took longer to sort out than the Second World War!’
Andrew Honnor founded Greenbrook in 2012 to address the trust deficit left by the financial crisis towards the investment industry. The firm thrives on discretion but is understood to represent more private equity, hedge funds and activist investors than any other communications firm in the European market. Honnor is advising Dan Loeb’s Third Point and Sir Chris Hohn’s TCI on two of the most notable activist investment campaigns of the year – Nestlé and the LSE Group respectively. Greenbrook also provides pro-bono assistance to charitable and not-for-profit organisations, including the SOHN Conference Foundation, Help for Children and Level 20.
Former ITV communications director and freuds CEO Nicola Howson struck out on her own in 2014. She advises corporations and high-profile individuals (including one Kevin Spacey for the past 15 years) on their reputations. ‘I’ve always believed that, in the end, we always get the reputations we deserve,’ she says, offering her thoughts on the ‘stark’ differences between now and her early career: ‘What’s changed is the pace… it used to be that you didn’t relax until 6pm on a Saturday, because only then did you know your client wasn’t on the front page of a newspaper.’ Social media has transformed all that: ‘It’s impossible now to take a path that is anything other than transparent.’
Barrister Victoria Jolliffe acts for claimants and defendants in defamation, privacy, data protection, malicious falsehood, harassment, and other media-related actions. She recently obtained a final injunction for a school whose pupils had been targeted via an ‘anonymous’ Facebook page. ‘Publicity has made people much more aware of potential remedies available to them and much more willing to pursue those remedies,’ she says. Jolliffe says data protection work will form a greater part of her practice in the future. She points out that the powers granted to the authorities by the Data Protection Act remain largely untested, giving the potential for future cases.
When Spear’s catches up with John Kelly, he exhibits a boyish enthusiasm: ‘There’s always lots of stuff going on. We’re finding now that reputation protection is about managing multiple issues in multiple jurisdictions rapidly. There’s not a lot we haven’t seen.’ Kelly outlines three issues he’s particularly busy with: prevention (‘Ninety per cent of what we’re doing is preventative’); digital work (‘Someone might say something mean on Twitter, but if they’re not influential you don’t want to overreact’); and, perhaps most intriguingly, big data. ‘For Spear’s readership their data is extremely valuable,’ he says. ‘You have valuable information sitting in servers, it’s centrally located in back-up servers or it’s in the cloud, and there are multiple attempts to hack that data.’ Kelly has deployed his skills in some meaty and high-profile work. In April he won a settlement described as one of the largest to go through the UK courts – […]
We’ve invested many millions in tech,’ says Dave King, founder of Digitalis. The firm’s technology mitigates online reputational, physical and cyber-security risks for UHNWs and their families. Digitalis mines clients’ online information, then advises on potentially risky data and works to remove or diminish it. After a cyber-attack, Digitalis monitors if and where data has been published online: ‘We know within six minutes and help lawyers jump into action, before an investigative journalist splashes it on a tabloid,’ says King. ‘The bit I like most is when we’re in the office of a prominent chairman and their reaction is “I didn’t know you could do that”.’
A partner at Charles Russell Speechlys since 2001, Duncan Lamont typically acts for high-profile sportspeople, business figures, politicians and HNWs, as well as broadcasters. Lamont has been heavily involved in phone-hacking litigation, advising Coronation Street stars and other actors. ‘It’s usually about ensuring that private information remains out of the media,’ he says. ‘I also work to protect online reputations: if we say [to the newspapers] “we’ll sue you” we will, but more often than not we reach a compromise. ‘The news outlets don’t want to get sued over what’s often a trivial matter,’ he adds. ‘They don’t have the budget any more.’
Everything’s new for ex-barrister and former advertising man Stuart Leach, who left Bell Pottinger in July and now fronts a new enterprise in partnership with Pagefield. ‘Our new independent state is full of opportunity,’ he says with obvious relish. Leach’s diverse background means he comes to PR with fresh eyes – and his team, drawn from the law, journalism and the military, seems to embody that. ‘We’re a real collective here,’ he explains. ‘The start point for us is litigation and we have a good reputation with law firms. It’s been interesting how many have come back to us,’ he says. Spear’s is in no doubt that Leach’s enterprise will thrive.
Charles Lewington’s standing in the field has grown exponentially since he founded Hanover in 1999. The offering – which is built around Lewington’s savviness and charm – continues to grow. In November Hanover acquired Bell Pottinger Middle East, in the wake of the Bell Pottinger scandal. A statement called it ‘a strategic opportunity to supercharge its growth in the region’. In addition to adding another 14 consultants to approach the 140 mark, the move is expected to increase additional fee income by £20 million. Lewington – who, as a former press secretary to John Major should know – was publicly critical of the Conservatives’ 2017 election campaign. And with a ‘Goldilocks’ client book that includes Apple, Facebook, the Premier League, Tate & Lyle and Tesco, when he speaks the industry, and those beyond, listen. CEOs and senior executives from Microsoft, Sky, Airbus and Goldman Sachs are also clients. Lewington touts […]
Sara Mansoori has a clear enthusiasm for the job: ‘It’s the immediacy of the results for your clients and the importance of the remedy that you can fix for them…You can save someone’s reputation in one hearing at an application,’ she says. Since being called to the bar in 1997, Mansoori has acted for a wide range of clients, including law firms, media publications and local authorities. She successfully acted for three Labour MPs in Sir Kevin Barron MP & Others v Jane Collins MEP – an important case about the assessment of libel damages following an offer to make amends – and also acted for the core participant victims in the Leveson Inquiry. ‘There wasn’t a law of privacy when I started out,’ she says. ‘It’s astounding to think the law of privacy has developed during my career at the bar and is now the preferred course for a […]
A veteran of the highways and byways of influence for more than four decades, David McDonough OBE is a trusted adviser to UHNWs, corporations and high-flying executives – not to mention ‘a head of state, as I still do’. He founded his own firm in 1980 after his first post-Oxford job – acting as chief of staff to Basil (now Lord) Feldman, including writing briefings for Mrs Thatcher. The business has seen several iterations since, the current being his LLP with Steven Norris. There’s no third-party involvement, junior consultants or others with McDonough – and that’s how he likes it. Clients (‘people who actually want a friend, an ally, a second opinion and a reflective view’) come and sit with him at his Westminster HQ, fused to the Abbey’s flank. As McDonough says, ‘This is more a consulting room than an office.’ ‘The market for high-level strategic and navigational advice […]
Spear’s Reputation Lawyer of the Year in 2016 and solicitor of choice to the likes of the Duke of Marlborough, Novak Djokovic, blue-chip corporations and global UHNWs, Amber Melville-Brown is a safe bet for corporate and individual clients looking to navigate media minefields. Of the new data protection regulations coming in May, she says: ‘In a world where our data is shared, bought and sold, used without authority or knowledge, and abused, and where that data can mean big bucks for big business, it is important for the individual to regain some control.’ She believes the changes, while not seismic, are important as they mark a ‘shifting of control over data back towards the data subject’. Melville-Brown has recently been on sabbatical, studying for a masters in media law in New York. ‘With 120 or so international law students as my new student friends, I am learning about their experiences […]
Charlie Methven sees a need for more experts in PR, which he says has been ‘bedevilled by bullshit merchants for a long time’. He argues that crises blow up when lawyers bring PRs in too late, ‘literally when the newspapers are banging on the door’. Even so, he sees some improvement: ‘There’s a modern generation of lawyers who are much more cognisant and open-minded as to where their expertise starts and stops.’ Dragon is expanding to serve billionaires from regions without strong defamation law. ‘You can walk into a meeting with a banker in New York who’d just looked at printouts from Google, saying, “I’m not sure I can do business with you, sorry,”’ he says.
2018 marks Steve Morris’s tenth year as managing director at Portland. During his tenure the firm has grown from a team of 20 to more than 250. Clients include some of the world’s best-known billionaires, family offices, CEOs and philanthropists. Morris says he has worked on every kind of issue: sensitive personal and family crises, legal and criminal cases and philanthropic endeavours. Prior to Portland, Morris worked at Downing Street for five years as head of strategic communications – ‘a fantastic experience’ he says. ‘If you can deal with the British political lobby journalism, then you can pretty much deal with anything,’ he adds.
Described as a ‘true pro’ by industry peers (and ‘the godfather of modern financial public relations’ by the press), Sir Alan Parker chairs Brunswick, the communications powerhouse founded in 1987 and now spread across 15 countries and 24 offices. The firm may advise the likes of Thomson Reuters, Burberry and some of the world’s wealthiest families, but his career in communications was never a given: his earliest jobs included managing a rock band and manning an oil rig. Parker’s big break came when he scuppered Lord Hanson’s plans to take over ICI. Today, Brunswick retains more FTSE 100 clients than any competitor. ‘Tenacious, committed and inspiring, Sir Alan is the key driver behind one of the world’s most respected and successful communications firms,’ says an industry heavyweight. ‘Enormously gifted, he possesses the innate ability to read between the lines, cut to the chase and deliver desired outcomes for clients time and […]
The head of reputation management at Farrer & Co, Julian Pike is philosophical about the recent scandals in the entertainment industry and government. ‘Scandals come and go’, he explains. ‘It’s like buses – when one thing goes wrong, they all seem to come along at once. It’s one of those hot periods at the moment. Kevin Spacey wouldn’t have happened without Weinstein, Pestminster wouldn’t have happened without Weinstein – it’s a domino effect’. As someone who deals with disaster on a daily basis, Pike has perfected the measured approach: ‘You have to ask yourself, “Are you going to make the situation better or worse by taking legal action?”’
‘It’s keeping a lot of lawyers busy on both sides of the equation,’ Geraldine Proudler says of the incoming GDPR. The head of reputation and media litigation and partner at CMS notes there have always been trends in reputation management, but data protection is now the focus for companies and individuals alike. For companies, it’s ‘not new in the sense that data protection was always there, but the consequences of getting it wrong are now much more serious’ due to the sizeable GDPR fines. While for HNWs, data protection is ‘a very real concern – how comfortable can they be that their private information will remain private in the current climate?’
For Simon Quarendon, who has a 35-year career in corporate affairs, the appeal of reputation management is its unpredictability. ‘It isn’t formulaic’, he says. ‘There’s no one silver bullet or magic solution. Every situation has a different set of circumstances surrounding it. That makes the job endlessly stimulating.’ Quarendon tells Spear’s that PR and public affairs are increasingly intermingled. ‘Politicians are mindful of what the media writes, and the media are mindful of what politicians say,’ he explains. ‘Most journalists will be monitoring a politician’s Twitter feed because it will give them off-the-cuff insights before the press office has time to prepare a statement.’
Roland Rudd enjoyed luminary status as a journalist before becoming a PR giant: working alongside Robert Peston at the Financial Times, he was known as ‘The Rat’ (after Roland the Rat). His departure in 1994 to set up RLM Finsbury with Rupert Younger was the first of a series of savvy moves: the company was bought by Martin Sorrell’s WPP Group in 2001, bagging Rudd an estimated £40 million. In 2011, RLM Finsbury merged with New York firm Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, with Rudd continuing as chairman. Rebranding as Finsbury in 2014, the firm now counts well over a quarter of the FTSE 100 as clients. ‘I could see a gap for a financial PR company which was utterly professional,’ Rudd told the Independent in 2011. ‘I hired only the most financially literate staff and was determined to have the top FTSE clients.’ This ambition has driven him since childhood, when […]
A giant on the British legal scene for three decades, Keith Schilling is credited with changing UK privacy law. He and his firm have achieved many firsts, but they have also had to adapt. ‘Success has changed,’ Schilling says. ‘Whereas in the past the power to dethrone the successful lay in the hands of a well-resourced few, today anyone with an iPhone and a Twitter account can start the ripple that turns an incident into an indictment.’ He’s hardly fazed: ‘I started this business over 30 years ago because I felt such invasions of privacy and unjust damage to reputation weren’t right. It didn’t feel fair. Today, that feeling hasn’t changed, it’s just got stronger.’
Taylor Wessing’s head of media and Spear’s 2017 Reputation and Privacy Lawyer of the Year isn’t the only one who’s gained overdue appreciation lately. ‘There is a level of recognition now about what lawyers do in the space that didn’t exist five years ago,’ says Niri Shan. Whereas instructing a lawyer was once seen as an ‘inherently aggressive’ step, there is now a more mature understanding: ‘They understand now that lawyers can actually just bring a different aspect to reputation management. In the same way that PRs build up relationships with journalists, a good reputation management lawyer will develop good relationships with the lawyers [on the others side] and operate in the same way.’ A key member of Taylor Wessing’s private wealth ‘strategic partner team’, Shan has more than 20 years’ experience acting for the firm’s top clients (many worth more than £100 million), preventing the publication of damaging allegations […]
One of Matrix’s prime barristers, Lorna Skinner was close to choosing a career in criminal law but favoured the world of media instead. ‘I’m very glad I did! It’s an area that is constantly evolving to keep pace with time,’ she says. Skinner, who has represented both defendants and claimants from publishers, parliament and trade unions, says it is thrilling to solve the spectrum of cases she receives, from ‘unsurprising’ allegations of affairs and non-compliance to blackmail and the misuse of private data. What’s most satisfying is tackling ‘thorny’ legal issues, where she has ‘the time and space to sit down and become, for a few moments, a world expert on a very small topic’. Skinner believes there will be a boost in libel claims following the Court of Appeal decision in Lachaux v Independent Print and others, where a common law ruling defied parliament’s protection of free speech in […]
‘I’ve always been intellectually curious,’ says the affable Mark Stephens, partner at Howard Kennedy and head of its media law and regulatory team. Taking a creative approach to finding solutions for clients, he explains his expertise on reputation issues ‘came about through representing a lot of journalists who were being sued’, which led to a slew of celebrity and sports clients, whom Stephens was already representing on other matters. ‘The two things came together, they saw the benefit of having someone who knew most of the editors on Fleet Street, and being able to recognise litigation isn’t always the answer.’ His work involves learning new areas of often particularly complex law. ‘I’ve done a lot, for example, in relation to high finance,’ he says, adding that ‘the growing area is around business and human rights as a reputational exposure for the corporation and the senior leadership’. One current focus is […]
Nigel Tait’s practice is extremely busy, so he often expects to work outside normal hours and through weekends to meet urgent deadlines – ‘but that’s par for the course’, he says cheerfully. How did Tait, who received a commendation in the Reputation Lawyer category at the 2017 Spear’s Wealth Management Awards, get into the industry? ‘My friends were getting snapped up by the City firms but they seemed to do long hours without much client contact. I applied late, and one of the firms which had a vacancy was Carter- Ruck. I didn’t know anything about it… it sounded quite fun, so at my interview I told them it was my passion. I haven’t regretted it; I wouldn’t swap this job for anything.’ That enthusiasm keeps Tait on his toes. ‘It’s got far more technical and expensive. Do-gooders come along in parliament and want to reform the law: they’ve quadrupled […]
At law school I had no desire to do media law,’ says the eloquent Dan Tench. ‘I thought law would set me up for whatever I wanted to do: it was an exercise in keeping my options open. I fell on my feet and got involved in some amazing cases, and the rest is history’. How much has his work changed in the internet era? ‘As far as I can remember it’s always been rather hurry-scurry,’ he laughs. ‘I certainly can’t ever remember the newspapers ever saying, “Yes do get back to us the week after next.”’ Tench singles out a particular change: ‘It’s the way you have these large crises, particularly in the corporate world. I was at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal for News International. It really struck me that this wasn’t a reputation management issue, or a civil litigation or an employment one: it’s the way you […]
‘Our job is primarily to defend our clients, but sometimes the work we do has a more significant impact,’ says Mark Thomson, who has represented film stars, supermodels and politicians. His firm continues to act for victims of the phone-hacking scandal, having already secured enormous pay-outs from Mirror Group for victims, including Sadie Frost, who was awarded the highest privacy damages on record. ‘It was a huge setback for the media, which has been lobbying to water down press law for years,’ says Thomson. ‘What’s exciting now is whether the politicians will have the courage to change the law to protect the victims rather than the press.’
Spear’s contributor Dr Laura Toogood holds a PhD in social informatics and is co-author of the book Journalism and PR: News Media and Public Relations in the Digital Age. In 2016 she founded Fieldmaster Group, which helps individuals, family offices and luxury brands with their online profiles and other digital issues. ‘If you don’t manage your reputation then somebody else – or a search engine like Google – will do it for you,’ she says. Her work has helped celebrities caught up in image-hacking scandals. ‘We track where these images are reproduced and we may use our technology to displace them from Google, or we may work with a law firm.’
Spare time is scarce for Steven Tregear, head of litigation at entertainment firm Russells. He specialises in resolving disputes for companies and individuals in entertainment, media and sport. Having joined Russells in 1985, Tregear is well versed in advising on defamation, privacy, celebrity harassment by the media and breach of confidence matters. A recent highlight for him was achieving, alongside colleagues, landmark phone-hacking damages for three clients from Mirror Group Newspapers in 2017. Russells recently moved from its Soho base – the firm’s long-term home since being founded in 1974 – to a new Great Portland Street location.
As you’d expect, the 2017 Spear’s Outstanding Achievement Award winner has had another busy year. ‘From the UK perspective, the two most important things in the last year have been the re-emergence of defamation as a big issue, and the acceptance now of data protection issues. It’s become a big cause of action in its own right,’ says Gerrard Tyrrell. Responding quickly to problems is crucial: ‘By the time you’ve ended up in court you’re probably too late and you’re dealing with a tarnished reputation: the real art is in making sure that never happens in the first place.’ Tyrrell began as a media and entertainment litigator, before his caseload expanded: for instance, he represented Virgin Atlantic when it sued British Airways over a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign. He has also won privacy and copyright cases for the royal family. ‘Ultimately a good lawyer is someone you go to who can analyse […]
A former journalist, Ed Williams has always enjoyed the fast pace that comes with live issues. ‘It’s this combination of handling live issues and making a difference through sound advice that keeps it interesting,’ he says. ‘And, of course, you find yourself across the table from interesting people.’ Reflecting on the past year as CEO of Edelman, Willliams says: ‘It’s easy to forget that we’re at the tail end of a decade of system shocks. Crises in business, media, NGOs and government all have one thing in common: those in positions of trust letting the public down. The mood now is one of deep distrust. How you find your way out of this mess is the single biggest challenge our clients face.’
There is a need for dynamism and speed in the crisis landscape, says Emma Woollcott, the soon-to-be-head of Mishcon’s reputation protection group. ‘We have to be chameleons and put ourselves in such a range of situations and understand it very quickly,’ she says. Speed does not equate to haste, though: ‘You need to have the gravitas and confidence to pause and reflect on the key priorities. Panic just breeds danger, and experience teaches us that we should take more time when making decisions.’ Woollcott works on all aspects of privacy, media and reputation law for a wide range of HNWs. Her battles often cross borders. No wonder a peer once proclaimed: ‘Clients can’t be in safer hands.’
‘I’ve got more search power on my iPhone than I used to have as editor of the Sun,’ says Kitchen Table Partners founder David Yelland. He also spent 11 years at Brunswick and Weber Shandwick, where his clients included the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Browne of BP. The Harvard graduate now deals with private clients at a close, personal level, advising them on managing the media, especially the tabloids. Having access to information is not enough: ‘You’ve got to know what to do with it,’ he says, and few are better versed than Yelland, who has enough experience of the industry to understand ‘the way the country works, as opposed to the way people think it works’.