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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition