Bashing the Bishop: Newcastle United, Derek Llambias and the Z-list PR guru
Posted on October 22nd, 2014 | 120 Comments |
Most Newcastle United fans are now familiar with the sight of Newcastle United’s PR consultant, Keith Bishop, who seems to have become a permanent figure at the right hand side of Mike Ashley. But who is he? And how did Keith Bishop PR get the job despite being a small celebrity PR company that would be totally out of its depth with a large Premier League club? Finally, what does former Newcastle United managing Director Derek Llambias have to do with all this? Below are a few answers.
First to correct a few possible misconceptions from the local media though.
Keith Bishop PR has been described as “one of London’s most well-known PR agencies” by Mark Douglas in local newspaper, the Chronicle. In reality it is more of a C-Z list celebrity PR outfit than a proper PR company like Bell Pottinger, Edelman, Ogilvy PR and others who are commonly retained by top companies, including large Premier League football clubs. Bishop is more like a poor man’s Max Clifford, more suited to representing celebrity has beens and wanabees than a large Premier League football club. When asked by ‘Features Exec’ in April 2013 “Who are some of KBA’s most well-known, or respected clients?” he replied “Newcastle United, Glasgow Rangers F.C., Flavia Cacace, Kristina Rhianoff and a few soap stars!” Other top clients of Bishop are Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers (he’s still going!), Sven’s ex, Nancy Dell’Olio, Pat ‘the mullet’ Sharp and Lord Brocket from “I’m a Celebrity”, North East Sky Sports reporter David Craig and Gary Newbon. The figures of Keith Bishop PR also indicate it is a quite a small time operation too. Whilst it is true that Bishop can also boast of having Leeds United and Rangers on his books, like Newcastle, they are also something of a PR disaster area at the moment.
Compare this with the PR arrangements of another Premier League club. Not Chelsea, Manchester City or the other giants Newcastle’s fans are constantly reminded the club can’t compete with, but with a more modest Southampton. The father of Southampton’s current owner, Marcus Liebherr hired David Bick’s ‘Square 1’ consulting when he took over the club in 2009, back in the days when they were a mere League One club and Alan Pardew was still manager at St Mary’s. Square 1’s other clients have included Dubai International Capital, Manchester United (pre Glazers), Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour, ENIC (the owners of Tottenham) and many others. They’re harder to find as Square 1 don’t brag about their client list, they don’t have to and it would be indiscreet. Looking at that list though, you don’t need to have a PhD in PR to know which one is more suited to a top tier football club.
Secondly, the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder has also suggested that Bishop has only been parachuted in recently as a “crisis management specialist.” This isn’t correct, he has actually been making a complete hash of Newcastle United’s PR for some time now. For a start, the interview with Bishop where he mentioned Newcastle United as client was given in April 2013 and he goes back further than that. This conveniently brings us to how Bishop got the gig in the first place. It was in much the same way as Alan Pardew, he’s a mate of Derek Llambias. Not only that, a quick check on a company records site quickly reveals that a certain Derek David Llambias (for it is he as they say in Private Eye) has also been Bishop’s fellow director at Keith Bishop PR Ltd since its inception on 3rd January, 2012. Incidentally, Bishop also got his contract as the PR man for Rangers as part of Sports Direct taking over the merchandising arm at Ibrox. As the Scottish Daily Record said back in April 2014:
“It beggars belief that in a week redundancies are mooted the board confirm the appointment of another expensive spin doctor, Paul Tyrrell, to add to the two PR companies already paid well for doing little in return.
“Keith Bishop Associates, for example, are on an 18-month contract as part of the club’s deal with Sports Direct. They invoiced Rangers last year for £27,000 and one official was so gobsmacked at the scale of payment for the work associated with it he demanded it not be paid.”
Sounds like Bishop’s PR magic is working like a dream north of the border too.
Back in Newcastle, and back to where I started this piece, Bishop getting his mug on TV around the world with commentators now even giving him a name check. In this, Bishop doesn’t seem to give a damn about breaking the cardinal rule of the spin doctor, becoming the story. The PR adviser before anything must be discreet, an invisible hand at the tiller. As Tony Blair’s former Director of Communications Alistair Campbell once admitted on his resignation, “I had to go because I became the story. When the PR man becomes a part of the story itself, it is usually a sign that the PR war has been lost.
Make no mistake, even the best PR company in the world struggle to make Mike Ashley’s egregious behaviour look good, though PR issues such as Newcastle United’s recent breakdown of relations with the media, failing to keep old Uncle Joe under control and several other PR disasters have hardly helped. If Newcastle United are a pantomime, then Ashley is undoubtedly it’s greatest Pantomime villain, but Derek Llambias’s old friend has now made himself a bigger part of that pantomime with his unprofessional attempts at self publicity. Whenever his face comes up it’s just a further, self defeating reminder of Newcastle United’s dreadful relations with both the public and the media.