Weber Shandwick public affairs chief Jon McLeod bows out after 21 years
Exclusive: The top lobbyist is said to be ‘looking for another challenge’
Weber Shandwick corporate, financial and public affairs chairman Jon McLeod is quitting the agency after 21 years, PAN has learned.
The experienced and highly-regarded lobbyist will leave later this month. It is understood that he does not have a new role lined up yet.
A former journalist on Public Finance magazine, McLeod joined Weber Shandwick in 1997 and went on to hire John Bercow, then a special adviser to Virginia Bottomley. In recent years he has prepared big-name bankers for select committees and two of his campaigns have each won a Gold PR Lion at Cannes.
Weber Shandwick staff were informed of McLeod’s departure in a statement issued by the agency’s EMEA CEO Tim Sutton. He said: “It is with great sadness, but also considerable gratitude that I have to announce that Jon McLeod is leaving Weber Shandwick later this month after a staggering 21 years with the company.
“Jon approached me earlier in the year to say that he was looking for another challenge. Of course I respect that decision and wish him every possible success in his new venture. With Colin Byrne he is the person who was done most to WS’ UK corporate and political offer over very many years."
McLeod did not comment on his next move when approached by PAN. In a statement he said that he was “grateful to Tim and the impressive range of colleagues and clients that I have worked with over the past 21 years”.
He added: “Transforming the practice of corporate communication and public affairs has been my purpose since joining Weber Shandwick in 1997.”
As well as having a stellar track record in public affairs, McLeod - who is married to the successful novelist Wendy Holden - is also known as one of the industry's sharpest wits.
In a 2014 interview with PAN, he detected three key changes to the industry in the 20 years that he had been involved in it, including the integration of public affairs into other disciplines. He said: “Public affairs is seen as a component alongside lots of other disciplines. We cannot have a dusty aloof attitude towards our clients which says we are the experts, we’ve got Erskine May tucked down our trousers and we’re coming in to tell you how the committee on statutory instruments works. People don’t want that.”
He also called for greater diversity in the profession, saying. “We can’t just have dragoons of young men in crumpled suits smelling of last night’s nightclub doing public affairs.”
News of his departure comes two months after Weber Shandwick hired Edelman public affairs director Anthony Marlowe to the newly created role of managing director, with a brief to grow the firm’s political and government relations practice.