15th Jun 2021

Another former EU commissioner joins PR sector

  • Mandelson: in a double revolving-doors case, left PR sector to join EU commission, and has now gone back into it (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Another former EU commissioner, Peter Mandelson, has gone into the public relations business, with the British peer, former trade commissioner and former UK junior minister for business, set to become chairman of a new London-based lobby firm, Global Counsel.

The company was registered with the UK business authority, Companies House, on 24 November, and is to have offices in Farm Street, London, in the same building as the multinational WPP advertising group, close by to the US embassy and the prestigious Ritz hotel.

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According to reports in leading British media, the WPP group, which also owns the Brussels-active lobby firms Burson Marsteller, Chime Communications, Hill & Knowlton and Ogilvy, has made a substantial investment in Global Counsel.

The reports, from the Guardian and Sky News, added that Global Counsel's day-to-day operations will be carried out by Ben Wegg-Prosser, a spin-dcotor in the Tony-Blair-era Labour government.

WPP declined to confirm or deny the reports when contacted by EUobserver, other than to say that the stories "appear well-sourced."

It is unclear what kind of consultancy work the new firm will do, but a specialist Paris-based publication, Intelligence Online, reported on Wednesday (2 December) that between 2002 and 2004, Mr Mandelson was also paid by French lobbying company AM Conseil, which has worked for French retail tycoon Francois Pinault, Africa industrialist Vincent Bollore, French media magnate Stephane Courbit and Belgian financier Albert Frere.

Mr Mandelson was EU trade commissioner from November 2004 to October 2008, when he went back to British politics and handed over the EU trade portfolio to Catherine Ashton, who later became EU foreign relations chief.

While EU commissioner, he was caught out holidaying on the yacht of Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, and later, on the boat of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, both of whom had financial interests related to EU trade decisions.

Mr Mandelson joins a growing list of commissioners from the executive's previous team who have gone into the consultancy business. Austria's Benita-Ferrero-Waldner, Ireland's Charlie McCreevy, Germany's Gunther Verheugen and Malta's Joe Borg have all taken PR-type or advisory appointments in the private sector, with Mr Verheugen also launching his own firm called The European Experience Company.

Brussels pro-transparency campaigners have bemoaned the practice of 'revolving doors.' But the Mandelson case highlights the fact that the phenomenon is not limited to EU institutions.

According to the UK government watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, around 24 former British ministers and junior ministers have gone into consultancy or PR-type roles in the past three years. The list includes Tony Blair (Government of Kuwait and UI Energy Corporation), former defence secretary John Hutton (Apco), former transport chief Ruth Kelly (HSBC), former home secretary Jacqui Smith (KPMG) and former defence minister Geoff Hoon, who also set up his own PR firm, TaylorHoon Strategy.

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