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Posted: 28.09.21

Robert Gordon Clark

The original idea for London Communications Agency (LCA) formed in my mind in 1996 when I was Director of Communications at London First and London First Centre, working for the inspiring Lord Sheppard of Didgemere and Sir Stephen O’Brien. 

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The original idea for London Communications Agency (LCA) formed in my mind in 1996 when I was Director of Communications at London First and London First Centre, working for the inspiring Lord Sheppard of Didgemere and Sir Stephen O’Brien. 

I was keen to get it going then but they (rightly) persuaded me not to leave in advance of the 1997 general election, saying we had more work to do together especially if New Labour won - which they did. 

So in my new, roving role as Deputy CEO of London First I got to run the referendum campaign for a “Yes” vote for the new form of London government we now have (where I first met Jonny Popper, then working for Neil Stewart Associates). I then campaigned for the business community through the legislative process of the 1999 GLA Act.

Looking back, those two projects were critical to the foundations for LCA and in early 1999 I felt the time was right to resign from London First and set up my new company.   Allen Sheppard immediately got his chequebook out and asked how much he’d have to pay to buy 25% of the business.  Flattered to be asked by “Britain’s Toughest Boss” (Sunday Times – voted twice I recall) such a question, I declined to sell any equity.  After all, back then setting up a PR agency didn’t cost much.  You didn’t need any qualifications, just a name, a business card and a mobile phone. And that hasn’t really changed in 22 years. Six months before Allen died in 2015, I had lunch with him and he said he’d wished he could have persuaded me to sell!

As I got the word out, I vividly recall some people saying “Blimey, aren’t you a bit old (38!) to be setting up a PR company?  It’s a young(er) person’s game and also you haven’t ever worked for one.”  My reply was along the lines of “I think you set a business up when you are ready, and I am. And I have worked with enough PR agencies to know how I’d like to run one!” 

So London Communications Agency was launched on 1 August 1999 with me and three non-executive directors (I wanted good advice from the start) and Jonny joined soon after to form a partnership which endures.  We set up camp in a 300 sq ft ground floor room in Hayes Davidson’s Paddington studio (see photos), thanks to the wonderful, much-now-missed Alan Davidson and have only moved twice, thankfully (to Fitzrovia in 2007 and then in 2014 to our current digs on High Holborn).

The next 22 years have gone like a flash – Paddington Basin, King’s Cross, the Dome deal and Greenwich Peninsula, Wembley, the Young Vic, the launch of the NLA, Lee Valley Athletic Centre, the delivery partner on the 2012 Olympics, High Speed 1 at St Pancras International, the floodlights at my beloved Lords, Spurs wonderful training ground and stadium, Dickens Yard in Ealing (where I also now live!), the Post Building along the road from our offices, Camden Lock Market, Museum of London, Canada Water, Brentford FC and London Irish, Mamma Mia! The Party, endless MIPIMs and over 120 brilliant cartoons by the wonderful Martin Rowson.

And so much more. But the most important ingredient of LCA’s success and continued growth, such that we currently work in around two thirds of London’s boroughs and have handled projects in every single one, is a deep-rooted understanding of the capital, how it works and the political dynamics between local, regional and national government.  That’s why we have and continue to invest so much in our “intelligence” function, which is the oil in LCA’s engine – we are and have always been what Professor David Maister described in his book on professional service companies as a “grey matter consultancy”.  You see only a fraction of our knowledge and insight every week in LDN.

Having just begun year 23, LCA is now a 50+ strong team with a client list far bigger and more impressive than I dared hope to achieve back then. But now I am 60 and, yes, on balance I feel that it is a “younger person’s game”

So today we are announcing a successful, managed transition at LCA. 

I have stepped down both as Chairman of LCA and from its Board to take up a senior advisory role, working part-time for the company.  As part of this transition, I have sold most of my LCA equity to my fellow shareholders. I still retain an equity stake and remain committed to working for the foreseeable future with my wonderful colleagues, Jonny, who will now become Chief Executive, and fellow Board directors Jane Groom, Chris Madel, Suzi Lawrence, Jenna Goldberg and the wider team.

We are also announcing today that Alastair Gornall, a very experienced PR professional, has become non-executive Chairman of LCA.  I wish him well as he works with Jonny and the team to drive LCA’s growth.

When I set up LCA, I was lucky enough to have Honor Chapman of JLL and Alan Davidson of Hayes Davidson as founding non-executive directors – two of the most inspiring people I have ever known.  In those early days their wise counsel ensured LCA got off to a solid start.  Both sadly died far too young, but I know they would take great pride in what they helped to establish. 

As part of these changes, our three current non-executive directors, Adrian Wheeler, Steve Norris and Sir Derek Myers, have also agreed to step down.  I would like to pay an enormous tribute to them.  They too have provided us with great counsel over many years and especially through the recent period of the pandemic. 

As for me, I will continue to work directly for LCA supporting a few clients, providing advice to others and still, at times, commenting on London life, especially I hope with my old friend Professor Tony Travers of the LSE.

In addition I will be spending more time on stage as well as producing some shows through my theatre company and I have also recently taken on the role of Chairman at Sporting Wine Club (, working with its founder, Simon Halliday.  This takes me back to the start of my career in the early 1980s in the drinks industry. 

And I will also have time to explore other projects that might come along.

1999 is now a generation ago.  The next generation are taking LCA forward and I am delighted that the business remains privately owned, run by the shareholders actively working in the business.

London remains a dynamic, exciting place and LCA will continue to work on many great projects in the years ahead.  Many of these will be talked about at where I am today and tomorrow!