CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/CHRIS SATTERTHWAITE - Chime's new chief will need all of his people skills

Chris Satterthwaite has no worries about succeeding Howell.

Chime's new chief executive, Chris Satterthwaite, is mulling over his favourite business truism: "The world works through mutual self-interest." He explains: "I was told that when I was 19, working as a gardener for a wonderful woman - a writer. She asked me how I thought the world worked. When I couldn't answer, that was her response, and I've never forgotten it."

Mutual self-interest is something that Satterthwaite takes very seriously indeed. "It's very important to make sure everyone is looked after appropriately in a people-based business - to safeguard client, corporate and personal interests," he says.

According to people who've worked with him, it's his unswerving dedication to clients that make him perfect for the job left vacant after the resignation of Rupert Howell two weeks ago. He's been quoted as seeing a client each day. "It's more like double that now - when markets are tough, relationships need nurturing," he says.

Despite the departure of Howell, there wasn't a shadow of doubt in chairman Lord Bell's mind about who should take over the company, which includes HHCL & Partners, the UK's largest PR group, Bell Pottinger, the specialist marketing company AMD Group, and is about 20 per cent owned by WPP.

"Chris is a brilliant leader, choosing to do so through interactivity and discussion rather than as a dictator," Bell says. Piers Pottinger, who shared the joint chief executive role with Howell, has been made deputy chairman. This move should sidestep a power struggle, which insiders say dogged the company when Pottinger and Howell shared the title.

After leaving the promotional marketing agency IMP - where he became the managing director at 29 - in 1993, Satterthwaite teamed up with Howell at HHCL & Partners, effectively becoming its "sixth partner".

Following its acquisition by Chime, he progressed to running Bell Pottinger, which, according to Bell, really demonstrated his abilities as a leader.

It's this ability to grasp and solve problems that will be put to the test as Chime finds itself, at best, treading water in the poor trading conditions. With its acquisitions strategy now on hold, Satterthwaite is concentrating on the unglamorous matter of rebuilding revenues, most likely implementing more cost-cutting measures and dealing with the trading issues of a company with shareholders to appease - at the time of writing, Chime's share price had dive-bombed to 45p (from 120p 12 months ago). Raising it will be a priority for Satterthwaite.

Alongside that, there comes the bedding down of the cross-shareholding deal which will see HHCL merge into WPP's Red Cell network, all part of a plan to get the agency back on track. He won't comment further on the deal, or the ramifications for HHCL, but stresses that it is an essential move in its evolution.

HHCL's new international status is something Satterthwaite sees as potential for the rest of Chime - 25 per cent of its revenues are from international assignments. While aggressive plans are obviously on hold, he's well aware of future opportunities.

Satterthwaite is not remotely fazed by the thought of stepping into Howell's shoes to become a "personality" within the industry and in the City. His considered and outwardly quiet demeanour belies a character well-known and liked within the company, according to the Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest partner Adrian Coleman, who worked for him for 15 years at HHCL and as the managing director of AMD's advertising arm.

"He's passionately interested in Chime and its people, and it shows - everyone knows him within the group, and he's extremely popular. He exudes assurance, he's consistent and calm, and people and clients have faith in him," he adds.

Satterthwaite is also itching to do more to knit together the different skeins of Chime's business in a bid to cross sell to clients, but only - and it's a big only - if it's of benefit to their business. He cites the financial consultancy Team Spirit, the business consultancy Heresy and the media company Pure Media as examples of smaller, more tightly focused modules able to respond quickly to client needs. "But it only works if clients have been listened to effectively and the solution is right."

One senior executive claims Satterthwaite's ability to see beyond above-the-line advertising is what will distinguish him from Howell: "Chris gets all the components of communications. Rupert was an adman, and it showed. Chime isn't just about advertising, and Chris embodies that. Clients, shareholders and staff all see that."

Satterthwaite is also a keen advocate of managing talent within the group. He won't supply names of those who really impress him, but numbers them on his fingers - a task needing two hands.

While life as Chime's chief executive is likely to be more than a full-time job, Satterthwaite still has time to follow Manchester United and keep up with a "huge coterie of mates", according to Howell. Home is in Surrey, where he lives with his artist wife, Teresa, and their three children.

"My plan is simple," Satterthwaite says. "I want Chime to be seen as the market-leading hotshop of new thinking and great campaigns. Ideas are spawned from hard times, and I don't believe the recession should stop that."


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