Pugh’s promotion makes him a contender for the Camelot throne

Camelot’s promotion of marketing director Martin Pugh to its executive board earlier this month opens the way for the former Pizza Hut and Safeway marketer to succeed chief executive Dianne Thompson when she steps down in 2012.

He may have his hands full trying to revive flagging sales of the Olympic fundraising game Dream Number, as well as marketing the National Lottery’s scratchcard business, but in the long term, Pugh is in the running to take on the biggest brand marketing job in the UK as chief executive of Camelot.

Pugh’s promotion comes amid a top-level shake-up at the National Lottery operator as it prepares to make the transition to the next licence period starting in 2009. Camelot has spent this year preparing its bid to win the licence, which it was awarded in August.

The main board has been denuded by the departure of three top executives earlier this year. Commercial operations director Phil Smith stormed out of the company in February after Thompson revealed she would stay in the chief executive’s role until 2012, denying him the chance to take the top job. Smith is now chief executive of Musgrave Budgens Londis.

Two key players in winning the bid, corporate communications director Mark Gallagher and bid chief Richard Hurd-Wood, have both left their board positions.

The new board
In the new structure, Pugh will sit on the main board with Thompson and finance chief Nigel Railton, who has been promoted to finance and operations director. It is thought that both Railton and Pugh could compete for the top job.

One observer says Pugh’s strengths have yet to be tested at Camelot since he joined in the run-up to the bid. His ability to launch products will be put to the test in the opening months of the new licence period when new initiatives will be rolled out.

The observer adds: “Dianne Thompson will be wanting to look at the very senior managers in the company so when the time comes for her to leave, there’s at least one, ideally two, internal candidates to take up the reins – as well as an external search. I wouldn’t put it as strongly as saying Martin is the anointed one, but the overall strategy should be about getting strong internal candidates – and Martin fits the bill.” 

Pugh joined Camelot in January 2006, a few months after leaving Pizza Hut, where sources say he had become frustrated at being unable to transform the business. One says: “He appointed Wieden & Kennedy to the ad account, which was an unusual choice for a mainstream brand like Pizza Hut as W&K is fairly cutting edge. But he realised he wouldn’t be able to do what he wanted in an operationally led company like that.” 

Is the ad account up for a review?
Many in the advertising industry are eager to know whether Pugh will review the advertising account, which is handled by Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO. Smith appointed AMV to the £25m business in 2004. Even if there is no review on the main account, agencies sense opportunities with initiatives launched during the new licence, such as the World Lottery Game.

Pugh will also sit on a newly created operating board alongside Thompson, Railton and other directors. Camelot has promoted marketing controller Ailsa McKnight to marketing director of brand marketing and e-commerce with a seat on the operating board.

Pugh will need a lot of patience as he waits to find out whether he will get the top job in five years’ time – unless, of course, a better offer comes up before then.

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