Sony Music CEO was awarded a CBE on the New Year’s list after a £18,000-a-month PR agency chased nomination letters from celebrities, including James Corden, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Leaked emails reveal the behind-the-scenes work done in an effort to secure a knighthood for Rob Stringer — the record executive who signed Adele and One Direction to Columbia before moving to Sony in 2017.
The amazing posts reveal:
- Mr Stringer met the British Consul General in New York after being told the officer could influence the honors system in his favour;
- TV host Nick Owen, magazine editor Dylan Jones and film executive Ged Doherty all provided letters of endorsement after being chased by the PR firm;
- PR boss Paul Blanchard tried to coach Gavin and Stacey star Corden on how to draft a letter of approval for the Sony boss;
- Celebrities, including Jo Whiley and Pharrell Williams, also provided letters of approval for Mr Stringer (but were not approached by Mr Blanchard).
Leaked emails reveal behind-the-scenes work done in an effort to secure a knighthood for Rob Stringer (left) — the record executive who signed Adele (center) and One Direction to Columbia before moving to Sony in 2017
Mr Blanchard’s company, Right Angles PR, received a monthly commission of $24,200 (£17,700) from Sony Music for PR work and to introduce commercial deals. It started in 2018 and ended in 2020. Both Sony Music and Mr Stringer say Mr Blanchard has not been asked or held by the company or the PR chief to nominate him for an honor or to gather supporting evidence.
Right Angles, which provided a bespoke honors application service at the time, learned that the British Phonographic Industry had nominated Mr Stringer for an honor and began trying to help by collecting letters of approval. Mr Blanchard and an employee, former diplomat Daniel Rutstein, also mediated in New York in September 2019 for a meeting between Mr Stringer and then-Consul General Antony Phillipson.
In a conversation between the PR man and Mr Stringer the day before the meeting, Mr Blanchard suggests that Mr Phillipson, one of the top British government officials in the US at the time, could influence the honors process in his favor.
There is no suggestion that Mr Phillipson acted improperly.
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Mr Blanchard told his client, “No honours. The ‘K’ word should never be mentioned – then he’s in complete negation, just like you.’ The “K” word means a knighthood.
Mr Blanchard adds: ‘He knows you know he knows, and I suspect he knows you know he knows you actually know he knows.’
In another message, Mr. Stringer said: ‘This man is a crucial piece in the puzzle for our – ahem – secret project… as he will be the man who gives ‘the nod’. Think of him as Del Monte’s man. Except that he already likes you, is grateful for your help and willing to say yes. And I really think you two will get along and become friends. That’s what we want.’
Mr. Stringer replies to Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Rutstein, “I will not disappoint you both.”
A source at the State Department said the honors system was not discussed at the meeting, nor was it ever suggested that Mr Phillipson had any influence over the process.
A spokesperson said: “In all cases, nominations are subject to rigorous checks and fairness checks to assess merit. Any suggestion that UK officials improperly influenced this appointment is completely unfounded.
‘Robert Stringer was awarded a CBE in recognition of his exceptional and lasting contribution to the UK music business, charities and tackling discrimination.’
Owen, who has known Mr Stringer for decades through their partnership at Luton Town FC, where the record executive is a director, said he was initially approached by Mr Stringer’s wife, Julia, to approve the application. He added: “He’s a good friend and a hugely respected man, so of course I did.”
PR boss Paul Blanchard (left) tried to coach Gavin and Stacey star Corden on how to draft a letter of approval for the Sony boss (right)
Corden also told Mr. Blanchard that he would be happy to provide a letter, but did not write one.
In July 2020, the Mail revealed that Mr Blanchard’s company boasted it could get a damehood for author Barbara Taylor Bradford in exchange for £80,000.
A source said Mr Stringer would almost certainly have been awarded the CBE without Mr Blanchard’s interference and that it was unfortunate that his reputation would be tarnished by association. The revelations reveal a shocking insight into the honors system and how individuals try to manipulate the application process.
Labor MP Chris Bryant, chair of the standards committee, said the practice of private specialist firms trying to obtain credits for their customers should be made illegal.
Mr Blanchard said his former client had done nothing wrong and fully deserved his CBE. “It is important to note the intentions of those who are leaking my stolen emails to you, as my friendly emails to Mr. Stringer, sent in a good mood, can look scathing if they take the necessary be stripped of context,” he added.
“At no point was I instructed to do Rob any credit while I was working for Sony Music. This was just my favorite project, which I proactively took on because I wanted the positive difference Rob has made to the community to be recognized. I am in debt to him [Mr Stringer] a very deep apology.’
A source at Sony Music said the company had not worked with Mr Blanchard for more than 18 months and that Mr Stringer had met successive consul generals in New York for years.