David Parkin on Britain’s answer to Mad Men and crazy characters in football

David Parkin on Britain’s answer to Mad Men and crazy characters in football

FAREWELL then Lord Bell. With his slicked-back hair, Savile Row suits, and heavy drinking and smoking, Tim Bell, who made his name at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, before going on to found the public relations firm Bell Pottinger, could have been the leading man in a British version of Mad Men. He was credited with coming up with the slogan: “Labour isn’t working” when he advised Margaret Thatcher ahead of her winning the 1979 General Election. He went on to work with her throughout the rest of her career and was a political spin doctor before the phrase was even coined. Some describe Britain’s first female Prime Minister as a controversial character. That was nothing compared to some of the clients that Tim Bell happily represented. Among his clients were the Pinochet regime, Asma al-Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator, the Sultan of Brunei and the Sri Lankan government during its war with the Tamils. In the UK his firm represented the Tory minister David Mellor during his extramarital affair, the businessman Ernest Saunders, convicted of manipulating Guinness shares during a takeover battle, Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods, Rebekah Wade, the Murdoch executive during the phone hacking scandal, and Neil Hamilton in his battle with the Guardian over the cash for questions scandal. Bell took a verbal baseball bat to critics of his work. When I did some media training for a law firm with my friend Nathan Lane he included an interview Lord Bell did with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in which he leaves on of broadcasting’s toughest inquisitors literally exasperated with nowhere left to...
David Parkin on connections, controversy and cauliflower

David Parkin on connections, controversy and cauliflower

THEY call it six degrees of separation, but sometimes it is a lot closer than that. In my last blog a couple of weeks ago I mentioned a trip to Grantley Hall, Yorkshire’s newest luxury hotel, and another trip to Huddersfield Town as a guest of Jason Taylor of Core Facility Services. It turns out that Core worked on Grantley Hall. And in the piece on Huddersfield Town I also mentioned their innovative but edgy shirt sponsorship deal with betting firm Paddy Power. The fact that the Football Association has since charged the club with misconduct says more about the unimaginative bunch of stuffed shirts that populate the governing body of English Football than it does about a stunt that caught the imagination of football fans across the world and raised almost £30,000 for charity. After the last blog appeared I received an email from Richard Jackson, who I have mentioned here before and who is the former High Sheriff of West Yorkshire. He said: “An interesting blog this week. Have you worked out who is the chief executive of ‘Flutter’, Betfair and Paddy Power? One Peter Jackson son of his proud father Richard, did you see the Sunday Times full pager on him last week-end?” I fished out the Sunday Times business section from the previous weekend and read the profile of Yorkshire-born Peter Jackson, the 43-year-old boss of Flutter Entertainment which used to be known as Paddy Power Betfair. With a background in financial services, Peter heads up a FTSE 100 group operating in 100 countries with 626 shops in the UK and Ireland and with sales...
David Parkin on a grand ambition, a shirty response and being lost for words

David Parkin on a grand ambition, a shirty response and being lost for words

IF there is a better approach to a hotel in Yorkshire than the way you arrive at Grantley Hall, then I’d like to see it. But then when the aim is to be not just the best hotel in the county, or even the North of England, but one of the best luxury properties in Britain, then I suppose it is no surprise. To describe Yorkshire’s newest hotel, Grantley Hall, as an ambitious project is a bit of an understatement. Five years in the making and with £70m invested, the hotel is certainly the result of the grandest of grand visions of businesswoman Valeria Sykes and her son Richard,. I visited Grantley Hall last week for the opening of its ELITE gym and spa by athletics legend Lord Coe. As Sebastian Coe he won two Olympic gold medals and set countless world records. I remember his old friend, former Tory Party leader William Hague, saying he was never surprised that Seb Coe turned into a great athlete. “When you are called Sebastian and you grow up in Sheffield, you have to learn to run fast,” he used to quip. As he opened the new gym Lord Coe was full of praise for the ambition of those behind Grantley Hall. “It really is fantastic,” he told guests, “I used the gym this morning and did an hour on the running machine – don’t worry I wiped it down after!” The hotel has just 47 rooms but boasts 220 staff. You get a taste of that when you pull in at the gatehouse and a man in a tweed suit with...
David Parkin is super excited for a new dining star and a night out with Cardi B

David Parkin is super excited for a new dining star and a night out with Cardi B

IF you visit a British city centre and ask a local for a restaurant recommendation then chances are even the most knowledgeable will struggle to name more than just a handful of independently owned establishments. The rise of the chains continues unabated. Despite the demise of the likes of Jamie’s Italian, Giraffe, Can and the closure of dozens of outlets by Carluccio’s, Byron and Prezzo, restaurant chains continue to open and private equity firms continue to show an appetite to invest in them. They call it the rise in “casual dining”. I think that is an awful phrase. While it actually refers to a restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere, if you look at the customers in many of these chains then you’d probably be entitled to call it “scruffy dining”. Those running independent restaurants find it harder and harder to compete as many diners flock to the familiar. I take my hat off to the imagination and entrepreneurialism of those who start up their own restaurant. So it was nice to be invited for lunch to the newest independent eating establishment in Leeds, The Whitehall Restaurant & Bar. I dressed up for the occasion, wearing my second best cardigan. Or Cardi B as I like to call it. That’s one for the younger readers. My hosts were George and Diane McKerracher, who live in Leeds city centre and are astute judges of the best places to eat and drink. Diane is a vastly experienced executive in the healthcare sector with the likes of Ultralase, Optical Express and Freedom Clinics while George is the former logistics...