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Alastair Campbell’s PR agency holds back bonuses after Qatar’s late payment

Portland counts Alastair Campbell among its senior consultants.
Portland counts Alastair Campbell among its senior consultants.

A top London PR agency that counts Alastair Campbell as a senior consultant was forced to delay its staff bonuses after the Qatari government was late paying it millions of pounds of fees.

Staff at Portland Communications, which counts Apple, Pfizer and Universal Music among its clients, did not receive bonuses they were owed for almost a year due to the strain the late payment put on the firm’s finances, City A.M. understands

The gulf nation appointed Portland in the run-up to the 2022 football World Cup at a time when the country was facing heightened international scrutiny due its chequered human rights record.

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The state became Portland’s largest client before they parted ways in late 2023, and it is understood that all fees owed to Portland have since been paid.

One industry veteran told City A.M. that late payments was an “occupational hazard” of doing business in the Middle East. He added that Portland would not have been able to pay bonuses to staff until they had closed out its accounts.

The Qatari government was approached for comment. Portland declined to comment. The Sunday Telegraph first reported the news.

The controversy comes as British managers at the Chinese office of another top City PR firm were accused of having “colonial” attitudes towards native staff in an anonymous email.

Employees working at the China, Hong Kong and Singaporean divisions of FGS Global -which was founded by Roland Rudd, the brother of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd – received the email, which complained of a “toxic” working culture” that favoured western workers over Chinese employees.

“It is our earnest belief that the management dysfunction, nepotism and questionable practices exhibited by certain Greater China partners are having a profoundly negative impact on both the business and employee morale,” the unsigned note said.

The email also alleged that the firm’s senior staff, which is dominated by workers from Hong Kong or the West, do not sufficiently understand the Chinese working culture, saying: “The colonial heritage of certain white partners in Hong Kong only exacerbates our concerns.”

In response to the allegations, the firm, which represents the likes of Proctor and Gamble and Coca-Cola, has sent James Murgatroyd, the chair of its UK, Middle East and Asian offices, out to China to listen and respond to any grievances from staff.

FGS Global told City A.M.: “We were disappointed to read the points raised in an anonymous email as we take any employee concerns with the utmost seriousness. None of these issues have been raised with global leadership either directly or via our confidential right to speak helpline.

“We are taking this very seriously, and our global head of HR is looking into these allegations… Our Asia region… now encompasses five offices… including a blend of colleagues with local and international expertise.”