Desmond’s Henchman Waves £80,000 ‘Brown Envelope’ at MediaVest

12 May 2003

“I really want to make this relationship work, Andy, and I want to make you a wealthy man!”
Well-known media salesman, February 2001.

“I expect I have acted with a degree of naivety, but I am happy that this arrangement did not affect our trading.”
Well-known media buyer, May 2003.

UK ad trade title Media Week last week scooped a story that in other circumstances would have made Express Newspapers proprietor Richard Desmond happier than fondling his bank statement. In the circumstances that pertain, however, Desmond may be less than euphoric – as the 'well-known media salesman' in question is his henchman Stan Myerson (52), joint group managing director of Express Newspapers.

The 'well-known media buyer' is Andy Jeal, managing director of Mediavest (Manchester, who in February 2001 received a letter from Myerson proposing an override payment based on levels of spend by the agency.

Nothing unique – or improper - about that. But the deal proposed, and later sealed, was not the standard agency volume discount which should be passed direct to clients (as per the best practice guidelines published by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising).

Myerson’s letter, of which Media Week has a copy, clearly assumes no such transparency about the deal and implies that the cash would travel no further than MediaVest. It also contained the interesting phrase: “I want to make you a wealthy man”.

Myerson, once dubbed “the most ruthless man in Fleet Street”, stressed in his letter the confidential nature of the compact: in the Express camp it would be known only to himself, proprietor Desmond and his financial director; at MediaVest knowledge should be confined to Jeal, his financial director and the agency’s major shareholders.

Apparently no override was earned in 2001 but in 2002 the qualifying level was reached and under the terms of the deal MediaVest is expected to receive around £80,000 ($128,250; €111,620) in the near future.

In the furore following the uncovering of the story, Jeal confirmed the existence of the agreement: “Yes we have an arrangement … I expect I have acted with a degree of naivety, but I am happy that this arrangement did not affect our trading. Most agencies have these kind of arrangements with most media owners.” [Jeal's last sentence should raise a few eyebrows at ISBA and the IPA.]

He regretted that Myerson’s letter contained a “very inappropriate part”, specifically the promise to make him a wealthy man. Myerson, however, claims the money is merely a reward for the media shop paying its invoices by the due date.

In a subsequent statement, the agency insists: “We maintain 100% media neutrality at all times and establish trading relationships with individual media owners that promote cost-efficiency.”

MediaVest (Manchester) employs 110 people with estimated 2002 billings of £66m, making it the UK’s 21st largest media agency.

Data sourced from: Multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff