Campaign Diary: Geoff Russell in alligator near-miss; WPP's links to key Presidents Club figure uncovered

The IPA's former director of media has close shave when he should have been putting his feet up learning more about Richard Huntington's dog, while WPP's links to the Presidents Club have perhaps been explained.

Alligator attack: lucky escape for Geoff Russell
Alligator attack: lucky escape for Geoff Russell

When admen retire, it's comforting to think of them sitting in their armchairs and quietly relaxing with a cup of tea and a hobnob. Not so, Geoff Russell, formerly of the IPA and now chair of the History of Advertising Trust. Last month saw him, together with US ad woman Virginia Doty, canoeing the outer reaches of the Okefenokee Swamp in remote South Georgia/North Florida, when their boat suddenly hit an underwater obstacle – tipping them both, fully clothed, into the icy and alligator infested water. We all know adages about trying to drain swamps, while crocodiles are biting your backside, but this was for real. "Virginia was magnificent" says Russell, "Immediately thinking about ways of righting the boat and encouraging me to keep afloat. Me, I just rather wished I was somewhere else – and hyperventilated!" Luckily for them both, the only pleasure craft on the water that day happened by – and they were hauled out. Ms Doty is now back at work at her agency and Russell is busy swallowing antibiotics to ward off the bugs in the swamp water. Perhaps that cup of tea in front of daytime telly might not be such a bad option – if he’d been watching Loose Women last week he’d have been able to discuss the furore over Richard Huntington’s dog (skip to the seven-minute mark).

While Edward Lear-gate appears to have subsided, questions remain over the Presidents Club and in particular why did WPP stay for so many years and buy a table at the men-only dinner? Sir Martin Sorrell has been close to one of the key figures behind the President's Club, Harvey Soning, who is chief executive of property firm James Andrews International. It has been listed in the WPP annual report in the past as one of its official "property developers". Soning's firm has also been named as the adviser on many of WPP's property deals, including Grey London's office expansion in Hatton Garden in 2012 and WPP's new Dutch base, the Rivierstaete, in Amsterdam in 2016.