Top PR Duo Quit Uncherished UK Airports Giant

24 August 2007

LONDON: Arguably Britain's most unloved company right now is BAA, the privately owned near-monopoly that runs all three of London's airports plus four other UK regional sites and others elsewhere in Europe.

The company is lusting to expand its already massive facility at Heathrow, the capital's largest airport, by building a third runway.

If approved by a compliant government, it would wipe out several neighbouring villages and intensify aircraft noise, making BAA a prime hate figure both among environmentalists and the local population.

A major protest involving thousands of nearby residents and campaigners was held on the firm's doorstep last weekend.

Moreover, BAA has been the target for much media and political criticism over its grossly congested and under-resourced facilities at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

In short: If ever a commercial venture needed expert, favourable ongoing press and public relations, BAA is that company.

Which makes the joint resignations of its two most senior PR executives - the heads of corporate affairs and media relations, Duncan Bonfield and Mark Mann - a disaster rather than an inconvenience.

Both departures are believed to have been premeditated, although Bonfield is said to have no other job currently in prospect.

According to insiders, BAA has been a hotbed of unrest since its £10.1 billion ($20.12bn; €14.86bn) takeover in July 2006 by a consortium led by Spanish infrastructure specialist Grupo Ferrovial.

The defecting pair are said to have been infuriated by Ferrovial's ongoing interferences in a tense and volatile situation, with matters coming to a head in June after the Spanish firm imposed a blanket media ban on the corporate press team.

According to a statement from BAA's external PR agency Maitland, "arrangements are being made" to replace Bonfield and Mann and a new head of press will be announced shortly.

Meantime, pressure is growing in regulatory circles for the break-up of the market-dominating, formerly state-owned firm.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff