How are you? I ask the senior flak on the Melrose/GKN deal. “I am completely knackered,” he says.
By common consent working on these deals is much harder than it used to be. In the old days, you needed investors on side and to woo a few City Editors.
These days, the number of stakeholders that require persuading is huge. In fact, say the flaks, they spent more time on the others than they did the investors, which might explain why it was so tight a decision.
There’s unions, customers, politicians, pension funds, local mayors, all to be dealt with. “A socialisation of the debate”, was how one flak put it. Takeover deals are becoming more continental just as Britain is becoming less.
The other reason it’s harder is that hacks are more thinly spread, under pressure to file in the morning, perhaps again at lunchtime and for the next day’s paper. So we demand more of the already stretched flak. Flaks complain that we hacks are now so desperate for a new line, we’ll report something outrageous almost anyone says, without thinking about whether that person is credible.
There’s been some talk of PRs being the new bankers. Their fees are still some way apart, but we gather Montfort will get £5 million whilst FTI and Brunswick will share £6 million. Bankers are less inclined to talk to hacks than ever before – a subject for another day – but the upshot is the flaks have become the only conduit for divining the message. I don’t think they’ve ever been more vital, or had to work harder, when there’s a big takeover deal ongoing.