Magazine article The Spectator

How, except for the Independent on Sunday and the FT, Mrs Horlick Awed the Lot of Them

Magazine article The Spectator

How, except for the Independent on Sunday and the FT, Mrs Horlick Awed the Lot of Them

Article excerpt

I don't know how good a fund manager 'L1 million a year superwoman Nicola Horlick' is - opinions seem to vary - but there is little doubt that she has a genius for PR. Since she was suspended from her job at Morgan Grenfell a little over a week ago, she has had the press at her beck and call. Among hundreds of yards of copy that would not have disgraced the pages of Hello magazine, she has generally emerged as a heroic figure who has brilliantly juggled her responsibilities as a fund manager, a mother of five children and a hostess whose glittering dinner parties are the talk of her part of Kensington.

It all began quietly enough last Wednesday when the City pages of all newspapers save the most down-market tabloids reported that Mrs Horlick had been suspended. By Thursday the Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express were all running long, gushy features on their news pages enumerating the many remarkable qualities of this hitherto unheard-of woman. She had my immediate sympathies as a single person, albeit a very rich one, pitted against an apparently unfriendly corporation. Little did one know that Mrs Horlick's skills as a self-publicist were such that she would quickly turn the tables triumphantly on that sleepy giant, Morgan Grenfell.

On Friday morning there was a bit of a lull. It was reported that Mrs Horlick had resigned. The story was generally pushed back to the City pages, though the Daily Telegraph pluckily tried to keep the pot simmering with a piece about `megabuck mothers'. Mrs Horlick had been in permanent conclave with her advisers - the City solicitors Herbert Smith, and a PR man called Anthony Cardew. I had never heard of Mr Cardew but he is reported to be `at the pinnacle of his craft' and a man of feline gifts who numbers British Aerospace, Eurotunnel and Lonrho among his clients. To the financial hacks whom he habitually attempts to stroke, he is affectionately known as `the cad'.

Future scholars will have to determine whether Mrs Horlick's next move can be attributed to her own innate brilliance or to `the cad's' legendary sense of strategy. On Friday morning she led the journalists outside her house first to Morgan Grenfell in Finsbury Circus, where she tried but failed to precipitate a show-down with her former bosses, and then to the offices of Deutsche Bank, the parent company, in Frankfurt. She cleverly managed to give the hacks on this bizarre whistle-stop tour the impression that she and they were members of the same socio-economic grouping, informing a hapless security guard that `if you lay a finger on me or these people, I will call the police'. Later, at Frankfurt airport, she appears to have mislaid her journalistic charges for a few hours, but they do not seem to have borne her any ill-will.

Mrs Horlick's write-up in the following morning's newspapers was everything she must have hoped for. The Daily Mail splashed with the headline `Superwoman Goes To War'. The Times, even more enthusiastic, covered the top of its front page with photographs of Mrs Horlick above the headline `City bank superwoman wins the day'. It was not, in fact, altogether clear that she had enjoyed an overwhelming victory, though she certainly asserted that she had. One also couldn't help noticing that she sometimes addressed her journalistic camp followers in a rather peremptory manner. …

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