Andrew Neil in £4m bid to save PFD, talent agency decimated by walkout

The former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil has emerged as the unlikely saviour of Peters Fraser & Dunlop, the London talent agency that once had some of the biggest names in showbusiness on its books.

Less than year after 23 of PFD's 36 agents walked out, taking stars such as Keira Knightley, Sir Tom Stoppard, Ewan McGregor and Nick Hornby with them, a consortium led by Mr Neil is buying the agency for £4m from CSS Stellar, the US sports and events group.

Mr Neil, who is current chief executive of The Spectator, says he was attracted by the bargain price for the agency's formidable back catalogue. "If you were an asset-stripper you would be prepared to pay this price to close the company down and live off its back book, though that is absolutely not what we want to do," he said.

PFD's chief executive, Caroline Michel, who will stay with the company, says she has a vision of a super-agency handling all types of media content.

PFD has had a turbulent recent past. Last year the agency tore itself apart, sparking the most vicious uproar in the capital's media scene since the feud between former tennis partners Martin Amis and Julian Barnes in the 1990s. Legal action between PFD and United Agents, the new organisation set up by its former staff, has been rumbling on since November, but the new owners hope to bring a swift conclusion to the conflict.

"From both sides it is time to draw a line because CSS Stellar's tenure was marred by the departures and litigation and all the other nightmares," said Sue Douglas, the agency's creative director, who is also a former colleague of Andrew Neil's and played a central role in orchestrating the PFD deal. "There are no guarantees, but the new ownership should signal a cultural change in the legal issues, and make possible all sorts of future plans that can be done more rationally and without rancour."

While Mr Neil will be keen to end the legal wrangles, sources close to the company suggest that his inclination to do deals with UA rests on the swift receipt of hundreds of thousands of pounds in back-catalogue payments that PFD believes it is owed.

The mass staff defection stemmed from problems the agents had with CSS. Having sold the company to CSS for £12m in 2001 the PFD management tried to buy it back last July for £4m, but were rebuffed when CSS revealed it had received a rival bid of £8m from Chorion, a licensing company.

The agents and their clients were incensed. Robert Harris, the bestselling author of Fatherland, complained publicly that he was not "a commodity to be bought by some other company".

Eleven of PFD's 36 agents had already resigned when CSS tried to stop the rot by bringing in Ms Michel. The charismatic former publisher famously won the rights to the late Alan Clark's diaries by wearing a short skirt to the meeting with the notoriously lascivious politician. Her sudden arrival at PFD was seen as an attempt to ride roughshod over the existing management, and within weeks, amid innuendo and faction-fighting worthy of any pot-boiler, the list of resignations had more than doubled.

Mr Neil's fellow investors are believed to be the City financiers Ian Hannam and Martin Gilbert, with the inclusion of a fourth contributor still under discussion.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: 3D CAD Designer - Exhibition Stands

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Rapid growth has seen a number ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor