Wednesday 22 November 2017

The Punt: Priscilla, king of the deserted

Ray Gordon. Photo: Collins
Ray Gordon. Photo: Collins

*PRISCILLA, king of the deserted

AS my psychoanalyst, there's something I have to tell you. Go on. I've just watched a YouTube video. It scared me. Why did it do that? The ABN Amro chairman, Gerrit Zalm, was dressed in drag and talking to staff at a conference. Trying to rally them. The chairman? Yes, he was on stage in a fetching blue dress. He was pretending to be a brothel madam. I see. And what did he tell them?

He said, well, he said that his name was Priscilla. And he, she -- this is all so confusing. It's alright, go on ... She said that she'd been working in a flourishing business with a centuries-long tradition. I think she meant banking, not prostitution.

Are you sure? Not really. I mean the banks screwed everybody, didn't they? Maybe she was trying to tell us that we're still all screwed. Maybe she really was trying to rally her staff? The prostitutes? No, the bankers. I'm not so sure. And I can't speak Dutch. Bankers speak double Dutch, don't they? I think so. Look for yourself, if you dare.

*Flash Gordon loses Irish Life

Alas, it couldn't last for ever. Ray Gordon has finally had the public relations contract for Irish Life prized away from him, after an almost 20-year run.

Rival Wilson Hartnell picked up the gig and no doubt fees that reflect the challenges of working on a big consumer finance and corporate account.

"Flash" Gordon had managed to hold on to both Irish Life and Permanent TSB as clients after IL&P was nationalised and broken up, but his grip on Irish Life looked slippery once it was bought by Canada's Great Life West Co. Great Life already owns Canada Life here, which was already represented by Brian Bell's Wilson Hartnell.

Still, we hear that Gordon MRM put up a show to try to hold on to the account in pitches over the last few weeks.

The Punt's not sure whether those pitches went to board level, but if they did, Irish Life director Mary Finan, a PR guru in her own right, was well placed to help assess the candidates, indeed she is a founder and chairwoman of Wilson Hartnell.

Gordon, meanwhile, has plenty of other fish to fry, including contracts with a slew of state agencies.

Alas, they may not be quite the cash cows they were. Michael Noonan, in reply to a Dail question, has revealed that NAMA paid Gordon MRM €78,926 in PR fees last year, down from €142,653 in 2012 and €112,353 the previous year.

The drop came after both sides agreed a 20pc cut in hourly rates.

*Bertree and the Alpine exploit

IRISH people just love a Bertie story. So you can imagine Punt's intrigue when we discovered that a company connected to Mr Ahern has had a bankruptcy action against it cancelled in Switzerland. Helvetia Wealth said it was granted a suspension last week, ending bankruptcy proceedings against it.

The wealth management company is headquartered in Zurich and has offices in Liechtenstein, Berlin, London and -- Kilkenny. It is also one half of the joint venture behind the International Forestry Fund, whose chairman is Mr "Bertree" Ahern.

Chief executive Kamil Stender said its board and management were "currently working on urgent measures to turn around the situation".

The Bertie-watch continues.

*Ryan watching his Penneys

Arthur Ryan is may have stepped down as chief executive of Primark over four years ago, but he certainly hasn't stepped out of the scene altogether.

After 40 years at the helm of the fashion chain, which started its life in Dublin in 1969 as Penneys, the workaholic stepped aside in 2009, making way for current boss Paul Marchant.

But low-key Ryan -- a legend in the retail business -- remained at Associated British Foods-owned Primark as non-executive chairman. And now pushing 79, he's still keeping an eye on things. He was recently spotted in a Penneys outlet in north Dublin, quizzing store management about the clothing layout.

Irish Independent

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