By Clifford Webb
Mr Keith Hopkins, the 44- year-old head of British Leyland’s public relations department, is to become managing director of the group’s Austin-Morris division. This announcement was greeted with considerable surprise in the industry last night. It is unusual for PR personnel, at any level, to move into general management, and to become managing director of a large operating company in one step must be rare.
A company statement said that after the death recently of Mr Bill Saunders, director of manufacturing for Rover- Triumph, and to safeguard important expansion schemes now in progress there, Mr Richard Perry, managing director of the Austin-Morris division was being appointed deputy managing director of Rover-Triumph. His successor at Austin-Morris would be Mr Hopkins.
Mr Hopkins said last night: “PR is as wide and all embracing as top management allow it to be. I have been fortunate in that I have been close to Lord Stokes for the past 12 years, and have been involved in every aspect of the motor business. So, the sort of, work I shall now be undertaking will not be such a big break as it would seem on the surface. I hope that some of the expertise of Lord Stokes and other senior members of British Leyland has rubbed off on me:”
The new director of public relations is to be Mr Tony Spalding, the present products public relations manager who joined British Leyland from Ford last year.
The new appointments take effect from October 1. The original Austin-Morris division, the bulk of the old BMC empire, was broken into three separate operations after the resignation last year of Mr George Turnbull, head of Austin-Morris and group deputy managing director.
Mr Hopkins takes over that part which is now responsible for sales, marketing engineering and service.