Matthew Freud seals £40m buy-back deal from Publicis – but what’s the restless PR maven going to do next?

Well that’s the obvious question isn’t it?

Matthew Freud has just forked out about £40m to buy back Publicis Groupe’s 50.1 per cent stake in his UK PR firm Freud Communications (the second time he’s extricated himself from a marcoms company, the first was Omnicom).

But you can’t really believe that he just wants to go it alone again.

Freud is exceptionally well-connected of course, distantly related to the great Viennese founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund he’s also married to Elizabeth Murdoch, who’s just been paid £415m by Dad Rupert for her production company Shine.

Maybe Liz lent Matthew the money.

PR is a great business these days for clever operators but, au fin de le jour, you’re just an adviser. One suspects that Freud wants more than that.

We’ve speculated here before that he might be considering a tie-up with M&C Saatchi, in which he holds a small private stake, or Engine Group (ditto).

But clearly Freud has seen at close hand the PR disaster that father-in-law Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has toppled into with the News of the World’s phone-hacking antics.

This is getting worse and worse and may still derail News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.

One of Matthew’s and Elizabeth’s neighbours in weekend Oxfordshire is embattled News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, who may be the first News International management type to be invited to share her thoughts with the newly-energised Metropolitan Police.

Another is coalition prime minister David Cameron, of course.

Rupert Murdoch has always rather ignored PR, regarding it as the last refuge of chancers and failed hacks.

But if ever there was a company that needs some really high-level PR it’s News Corporation.

Recently-appointed News International PR supremo Simon Greenberg, formerly of Chelsea FC, seems to have done a good job in so far as he’s persuaded the company to engage with the issues and its critics, as opposed to maintaining unconvincingly that nothing was going on.

But it’s far too late for that for News international and News Corporation and maybe Rebekah Brooks. The wolves are even circling around News Corporation heir apparent James Murdoch, now consigned to New York, who was ultimately responsible for a succession of News International denials of wrongdoing that now look disingenuous, to put it at its mildest.

Send for Freud!

Well stranger things have happened.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.