The news that Keith Hopkins, the British Leyland public relations chief, is to take over as managing director of the corporation’s Austin Morris division was causing a good deal of surprise among close observers of the industry yesterday. Hopkins, who has led the corporation’s large public relations team since the merger of 1968.
has had the reputation among some pressmen of not being the easiest PR man in the business to deal with. Now, as head of part of one of the more troublesome sectors of the group, his undoubted talents could have a much greater impact.
Hopkins, a Coventry man, gained an MA in modern languages at Oxford and studied at the University of Heidelberg and the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1954 he joined the old Standard Motor Company in Coventry as a humble public relations officer and later began his long association with Donald Stokes. By 1957 he was using his languages as overseas PR and two years later became PR executive.
In 1961 when the Leyland Motor Corporation took over, he was appointed group PR manager. Hopkins, recognized in the industry as a considerable opportunist, became one of Lord Stokes’s right hand men. Now he assumes the title held until last year by George Turnbull and although it is a watered down version of the job Turnbull had, there are to be three Austin’ Morris managing diiectors, Hopkins will still be responsible for sales, marketing, engineering and service.
STOKES PICKS A “MR FLAIR”
By David Benson
Car chief Lord Stokes shook the industry last night by giving British Leyland’s biggest job to a non-engineer . The firm’s public relations director, 44-year-old Keith Hopkins, is to become managing director of the Austin Morris Divisionâ€”which includes Longbridge and the controversial Cowley factories.
Eleven months ago, George Turnbull – the man tipped to take over the Leyland giant when Lord Stokes retires quit the Austin Morris job following a serious disagreement over future policy. Since then, the division has been more closely integrated into the group. Lord Stokes said last night: “We now have an excellent production, design and engineering team at Austin Morris. What we need is flair from the top which I think Keith can give the company.”
Mr Hopkins, son of a Coventry car worker, takes over on October 1st. His first statement, after his appointment was announced was to refute allegations of “skivers ” in the Cowley workforce.