The Power of Great Publicity

James Hull

Strategic Communications

July 29, 2015

james hull car collection

FTI Consulting has worked with High Net Worth Individuals, family offices and their advisors for many years, so when James Hull came to us for help we were well placed to support him.

James Hull is a wonderful example of that great British tradition: the amateur enthusiast. While running his successful dentistry franchise, he gradually amassed a truly exceptional collection of British classic cars.

For more than thirty-five years, James travelled the world tracking down rare and original models. They would be shipped back to the UK, where they were painstakingly disassembled, restored, repainted and re-assembled by a team of expert mechanics. Just as much effort went into finding original components and fittings. Each restoration project took around three years to complete.

Some of the cars in the collection had a glamorous history, such as a Mini Traveller that had belonged to Lord Mountbatten, or a Bentley owned by Elton John. Others, such as an Allard ‘woodie’ station wagon and a Sinclair C5, were less exotic but equally interesting, and the collection amounted to a complete history of the best of the British car industry from the 1930s. It was estimated to be worth over £100 million.

Early in 2014, Mr Hull decided that the time had come to sell. He was keen for the collection to remain in one piece and for it to stay in Britain, where it could be enjoyed by the public. He asked us to help him achieve that wish.

"Who knows what will turn up next. My wife hopes it will be collecting something smaller… like stamps." - James Hull

In these sorts of projects, it is critical to understand the client’s needs and sensitivities and to build an open and honest relationship. We also needed to devise an effective communications strategy, and have a clear understanding of the media - knowing who would be interested in this story and enjoying relationships with the right journalists. We knew exactly who spoke to the audience that we wanted to reach, and how to present the story to them.

Our strategy was to look for exclusives first, and then broaden the campaign.

We put the foundations in place – working out the key messages that would make a great story, taking all the necessary photographs and preparing Mr. Hull for interviews, which included advising him on what he couldn’t talk about (such as possible buyers).

As a first step, we secured a prominent article on page three of the FT, thanks to our contact with the paper’s motoring correspondent. We then placed the story into a large number of media outlets, including the Mail Online, the Mail on Sunday and The Times. We arranged for one journalist to drive some of the cars, which inevitably resulted in positive coverage.

As a direct result of the coverage we generated, many potential buyers came forward. But James eventually decided to sell to Jaguar Land Rover who had been interested in buying the collection for some time.

Outcome: The extensive publicity that we generated gave James more power in his negotiations, and he ultimately sold on terms that he was delighted with.

James’ enthusiasm for collecting remains undimmed. Asked what he would do next, he replied: “Who knows what will turn up next. My wife hopes it will be collecting something smaller… like stamps”.

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John Waples

Senior Managing Director, UK Head of Strategic Communications