Teneo: The big new 'player' in City and corporate PR


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For decades, the more serious side of British PR has been dominated by the same old names: Brunswick, run by Sir Alan Parker; Finsbury, run by uber-networker Roland Rudd; and Financial Dynamics (now FTI), run here by former Sunday Times business editor, John Waples.

But now there's a new name making waves in this sometimes murky but always highly lucrative sphere.

At the beginning of this month, Teneo – which has grown to 250 people in New York in just four years yet is hardly known here – bought two of London’s hottest ‘boutique’ corporate PR consultancies, Blue Rubicon and Stockwell. Last week Teneo created more waves by winning a piece of ‘reputational and operational consultancy’ for the crisis-hit world football body, Fifa.

The developments show that Teneo has serious ambitions in the UK and Europe and seriously threatens to disrupt a cosy status quo.

Despite the rather jargony name and a mind-numbing website, Teneo is run here by Charles Watson, previously a big cheese in City PR, having previously run Financial Dynamics (before it sold to US giant FTI in 2006).

Watson is a neat and personable man who has developed a special interest in building, financing and selling consultancy businesses. Prior to taking over as chairman of Teneo International in January, he had spent several years in the advertising business as chairman of Karma Group, which owns the trendy Clerkenwell ad agency, Karmarama.

Now though,Watson has shunned the beards and plaid shirts of adland and is back among the ties and pinstripe suits of corporate reputation management. Watson believes that Teneo can tap into a rich seam of demand for advice from big corporations that have been shaken by the shareholder backlash following the banking crisis and which are adapting to the scrutiny of modern digital channels. And whereas rivals such as Brunswick and Finsbury have struggled to expand beyond their bread and butter work in the capital markets, Watson says Teneo can dominate in just that corporate space.

We should therefore watch Teneo with interest and see if it can bring unique scale to a sector hitherto dominated by local boutique consultancies.