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PERSONAL, UNDILUTED VIEWS FROM TOM WINNIFRITH

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Financial PR firms & the AIM Cesspit (another fight picked)

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- Tom Winnifrith

Oh dear, I fear that I won’t be getting very many Christmas cards from the financial PR industry this year. My book on how many I will receive is currently running at 1-2 but on balance I’d be a seller. I seem to have offended yet another operative because I am not in the business of writing universally nice articles. Such is the self-importance of these folks that they think I actually give a damn. In for a penny…. Let’s examine the role of financial PR in the AIM Cesspit.

You may remember that I had a bit of a falling out with uber-prude PR bird Kay Larsen of College Group who seems to think that I have a thing against sheep shaggers, oops sorry meant to say Welsh people - not that any of them are in fact animal molesters - and also publish pornography. College Hill is now not returning calls made by staff at www.Shareprophets.com . Does this stop the 19 writers on that site covering companies daft enough to pay College Group £10,000 a month to manage its media relations? Not in the slightest. Does it affect our coverage? Er…not in the slightest. Companies who think that writing a cheque to some daft parasites each month means that they can manage how and where they are covered are just kidding themselves.

And so to my next fallout which is with YellowJersey PR, which makes me think somehow of custard and cowardice. Its gripe is that it represents Arian Silver (AGQ) where, on www.shareprophets.com  I have flagged up its various funding issues like a failure to get a placing away. 

In case you missed that scoop it appeared here

That is apparently not the sort of coverage YellowCustard’s clients want.  I am sorry to hear that. And so due to the “nature of the site” I am now told that if our writers seek information like broker notes on other YellowCustard clients we will not be assisted. We are quite happy to republish broker buy notes on the three YellowCustard clients Shareprophets follows in the interests of balance. But that agency will not assist its clients or us in that process.

Apparently we need to change if we are to get co-operation. We need to show that we can be useful and provide supportive coverage.  Apparently other websites and publications do just that and the whole world works just fine. Indeed I was told explicitly that other folks had written positive pieces about Arian and I should learn to go with the consensus. I note that Arian’s shares have slumped by 75% since September and I cannot say that I regret not going with the consensus. Anyhow:

Hmmm…I thought about that long and hard. For about 1 millisecond. And so….

a)      Screw you.

b)      My new article on Arian (highly bearish and illuminating) is now live HERE

c)       I have now fired over some questions about Wessex Exploration (WSX) another Yellowcustard client to assist me with an article I have been meaning to write for ages but am now prompted to complete. To be fair, its CEO Andy Yeo is a good chap and so came back with prompt and valid answers and he will get a, more than, balanced piece later. He is a grown up and knows how to deal with the press.

However the MD of Yellowcustard is a total prick ( as he always has been, even when we worked in the same organisation) and has emailed me following the Arian piece to say:

 “I note your piece on Arian Silver following our conversation. This confirms what should have been said on the phone today; this is the last correspondence I am going to have with you. Life is too short and you are not someone I want to be associated with in any way. Please do not contact me (or any of my staff) again.”

So if your hire this prick to do your PR if he has a positive broker note on you it will not be sent somewhere where thousands of investors can read it. If I am about to do a negative piece on a PLC I shall call the prick who will slam the phone down on me and so I shall just say “The Company declined to comment.” Sounds like everyone should hire this fella at once. He really know show to get the best coverage for you.

You will note that nowhere at all does this prick deny the substance of my Arian article it is just that he cannot tolerate journalists who print the truth rather than sucking PR cock.  It does not fit in with his world view. Had I said fill your boots with Arian shares as they tanked I would be a good fellow and he would be assisting me. Jeepers – thanks but no thanks.

Of course it is not just one agency. I am still waiting for foxy PR bird Bex at Redleaf Polhill to (as promised) return my call regarding Quindell (QPP) and its odd loan of £15 million on its year-end balance sheet.  Has that call not been returned because?

a)      No-one at Quindell knows the answer or will tell it to Bex?

b)      I will use the answer to write another damning piece?

c)       Bex has advised her client that I am not a nice man and so they (like her other client Cupid) should not speak to me but only to “nice” journalists who will run with the party line?


If it is c) – as I suspect – then how can Quindell bleat on about misinformed speculation (yes I have an unreturned call to its CEO too) when its PR bimbos refuse to answer simple questions? Does the mighty firm of Redleaf Polhill think that I am going to stop writing articles raising valid points about its clients simply because foxy Bex refuses to speak to me? If so, it misjudges me badly.

My latest thoughts on that loan can be found HERE

The total arrogance of the PR industry just baffles me. PR is a cost centre for any PLC. It has to show how it adds value. Whether it can is a matter for debate. But the idea that by getting all huffy puffy and refusing to co-operate with www.Shareprophets.com or with me is going to make a blind bit of difference to what I write about or what I write is just a joke.

To College Group, YellowCustard, Redleaf Polhill or any other PR fuckwit who thinks that they can influence what I write in any way shape or form, I have to say that you are mistaken. And unluckily for you, thousands of folks read what I write.

I regard the financial PR industry as part of the problem in the AIM Cesspit. You guys are on the side of companies that want to issue shares (in part to fund your own bloated PR fees) and I am not. The financial PR industry is thus an integral part of the AIM Cesspit. You chaps never quit if your clients are caught telling porkies. Your job is not to disseminate the truth but to put the facts in the best possible light. How is that a service for investors – what does it have to do with the truth?  It is simply a service for companies – often quite rotten ones - that wish to issue shares at the highest possible price.

Am I just unlucky in terms of which PR flunkies I talk to or is it a widespread belief that the PR industry can dictate how writers cover a particular company?  The truth is that it cannot. Any company paying a PR flunkie a retainer in the belief that it can is in part wasting its cash. I say in part becuase.

Of course the media establishment is partly to blame. When I started as a journalist 20 years ago or more I was told by an old hand “be nice to PRs.” The rationale was that if you were you would be given scoops. That is to say they would give you an “exclusive” on a piece of good news which you could write up in a positive way only for it to be confirmed at once via an RNS. That way you look like a genius and the PR firm gets two bits of coverage for its story. As an added bonus if you suck PR cock long enough, I was told, you can eventually get a very well paid job in PR yourself.

I remember with horror from my days on the Evening Standard how PR men would stand over the computers of journalists writing about their clients “assisting” in how the story appeared because it was, after all, a “scoop” for the paper. It makes me shudder.

Looking at my contemporaries from 20 years ago I see many of them are indeed now in PR. The PR man for Motive TV (which I dealt with yesterday HERE) was once a very fine critical journalist. He may earn more these days but is he happier spinning for a POS like Motive TV?  The dark side can be terribly seductive. I know that. However:

To Jason who was once a proud Jedi writer I say: “I know that the force still burns within you – abandon the dark side – re-join the rebel forces!”

Underneath it all Jason is a Jedi at heart. Surely he cannot want to be lumped in with all the other creeps on board the Death Star? After all, we know what happened to the Death Star in the end.

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