CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/SIMON BURRIDGE - Life is no longer a lottery for HHCL's new chairman. Simon Burridge explains to Camilla Palmer why HHCL's offer was too good to miss

When Simon Burridge, the new group chairman of HHCL & Partners,

takes up his position at the beginning of June, he'll be faced with a

new type of challenge.

For a man used to the structure of agencies such as J. Walter Thompson

and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, HHCL's hot-desking policy might come as a

bit of a shock.

'As far as I know, I won't have my own office,' the former chief

executive of Richard Branson's unsuccessful People's Lottery, says. 'I'm

going to really immerse myself in HHCL's culture - and that means

finding a new desk every morning.'

Mind you, Burridge, whose family owns the racehorse Desert Orchid, has

grown accustomed to a degree of uncertainty in his working routine.

Since the People's Lottery lost its bid for the next seven-year licence

after a controversial battle with Camelot, he has been winding down the

operation, working on a few other projects for Branson, and fielding the

job offers.

He claims to have turned down a fair few, but says the opportunity to

take up HHCL's most senior role was too good to miss. 'HHCL has a point

of difference,' he says. 'Lots of agencies don't have that relentless

curiosity, the courage to challenge the status quo.'

An agency network lifer, Burridge started his career at Ayer Baker and

Dewe Rogerson, before joining JWT in 1987. A board director on Kraft and

BT, he helped put together Branson's first lottery bid before moving to

AMV as a senior board director. Burridge moved back to JWT in 1996,

becoming a managing partner in 1997. Most of 1999 and 2000 was taken up

organising Branson's second tilt at the Lottery. But the man who

mistakenly left out the letter l in a sign-off to WPP chief executive

Martin Sorrell, leaving the message: 'See you shorty', did not


Once he's found his feet, Burridge will 'get stuck in' to the task in

hand - helping realise parent company Chime Communications' ambitions

for HHCL.

'The agency is poised for significant new growth, but has reached a

crossroads - it must decide what it's going to do next,' he says.

HHCL's need to redefine itself as it grows bigger has been no secret -

witness the flurry of growth in the past six months which has seen the

creation of the Heresy internet consultancy and a digital and direct

marketing arm.

'HHCL is no longer just a creative hotshop start-up,' Burridge


'It was revolutionary, and revolutions don't just stop -they gain more

momentum for more change,' Buridge says.

'We've got bigger plans,' HHCL's chief executive, Robin Azis, echoes,

countering claims that the agency's increasing size has led to a decline

in creativity. 'We're about to enter the big league in terms of size and

scope, without, of course, losing the creative edge.'

However, Azis has previously admitted that the lack of a global, or even

pan-European, presence has taken its toll. Amazon reviewed its account

from HHCL on that basis, and the agency will lose its last piece of

Guinness business - the Irish market - this summer after the company

pooled it into Saatchi & Saatchi and AMV late last year.

Burridge's experience with high-profile global clients should provide

HHCL with a more competitive international profile - and could help

develop the global contacts to compete with the networks. Right now,

he'll bed himself into HHCL's existing management structure, working

alongside, 'not above,' Azis, the founders and creative directors, Steve

Henry and Axel Chaldecott, and the planning partner, Jon Leach. However,

if things go wrong, 'I'll be the one directly responsible.'

He brushes aside concerns that staffers, accustomed to HHCL's tradition

of internal promotion, may view his external hiring with a degree of

scepticism. Most who have worked with him agree that Burridge will find

his feet quickly. He's 'bloody good fun,' according to one former JWT


His arrival does mean the departure of Chime's joint chief executive,

co-founder of HHCL and the former IPA president, Rupert Howell, from the

day-to-day operations of the agency.

Howell's diminished presence at HHCL, Burridge admits, was one of the

main reasons for his hiring. 'We'll be working very closely in the early

days, but this isn't about cutting him off from HHCL,' he says.

Even if he doesn't get a permanent seat in the agency's offices,

Burridge has one reserved on the management board at Chime, reporting to

the UK group managing director, Chris Satterthwaite. Satterthwaite,

HHCL's former chief executive, took up his position 1997, along with


A short stint as the chief executive aside, the move to the role of

group chairman from his most recent agency role as a managing partner at

JWT could be seen by some as more a leap than a hop for Burridge. Yet he

seems unconcerned. 'Any new role is taking a step into uncharted

territory,' he says.


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