In 1980, Alan joined Sony Corporation as Public Affairs Director. Four years later, with others he founded the Grayling Company, which grew to become a broadly-based public relations and government lobbying group, of which he was Group Chief Executive. When Grayling was sold to Lopex plc in 1988, he elected to spend less time on management and more on consulting.
For the last fifteen years, he has been operating as an independent consultant, offering high-level advice and assistance to organisations and individuals with particularly challenging communications needs. In this time, he has worked for Bell Pottinger, and his name has been associated with a number of high-profile, commercial and political matters.
According to the Scotsman in November 2001, Kilkenny worked for Camilla Parker Bowles, then girlfriend of Prince Charles. It reported a clash between Kilkenny, then at Bell Pottinger, who had conducted PR for Parker Bowles, and Charles’s deputy private secretary, Mark Bolland:
- Bolland tagged his mission Operation PB after Parker Bowles and within weeks of his appointment he began undermining her previous press advisor [Kilkenny]. A few years previously Alan Kilkenny, a senior PR consultant with Bell Pottinger, had loaned Parker Bowles his free services, but Bolland was convinced both the Prince and his girlfriend should sing from the same sheet, his own. When Parker Bowles was involved in a car crash, Bolland briefed journalists that she had aided the injured. When it became apparent she had not, he spun the line she had left the scene as part of her anti-terrorist training. Kilkenny was left to try and establish the facts and was later dropped.
In June 2001, the Guardian reported that the Conservative party's multi-millionaire treasurer, Lord Ashcroft, was embroiled in new controversy over his business dealings in the offshore tax haven of Belize in central America. The report said:
- US state department and drug enforcement administration (DEA) documents obtained by the Guardian disclose that the US government fears that Belize's secretive tax haven "created to provide tax shelters for companies owned by Ashcroft" is being easily exploited by money launderers and fraudsters... They warn that continued lack of controls may make Belize "an inviting target" for drug traffickers seeking to hide their profits. In one report last year, Washington noted concern over the increase "in the number of individuals found bringing large amounts of currency into the country in briefcases or concealed under clothing"... Another DEA report in 1999 records intelligence that the quantity of US cash flowing into Belize had "increased dramatically"... A previous report describes the Ashcroft-inspired offshore legislation as "a mechanism whereby illicit activities could be disguised", giving "drug traffickers freedom in establishment of companies ... to conceal or transfer drug proceeds ... money launderers never have to leave the safety of their own countries".
The report further points out:
- The disclosures reignite the question of Lord Ashcroft's suitability to sit in the House of Lords, where the Tory leader William Hague promoted him. But yesterday Lord Ashcroft's spokesman, Alan Kilkenny, said money laundering in Belize did not occur on a wide scale: "Why pick on Belize?"
The Tollmans - tax evaders
Kilkenny also conducted PR and lobbying for Stanley and Beatrice Tollman, who were branded fugitives in the US after they left the country following their indictment on fraud and tax evasion charges. The couple also faced the threat of being extradited to the US. In December 2008 it was reported that Stanley Tollman pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and agreed to pay a total of $105 million to settle various fraud charges related to the multimillion-dollar tax evasion scheme. The FT reported in April 2007 that Kilkenny had hired the services of Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith and Rogers International to help. The FT commented: "It is unusual for a firm such as BGR, which does not have any expertise in criminal justice matters, to lobby prosecutors or other officials on a criminal matter."
According to an essay by the UK land rights campaign, This Land is Ours, Kilkenny was involved in drafting a proposal document for the Countryside Movement, one of three orgaisations that went on to form the Countryside Alliance:
- The Countryside Movement claims to be concerned about all rural issues, and its formation coincided with the publication of the Government's Rural White Paper. Fronted by mild-mannered Sir David Steel, the Movement presented a plausible case for an umbrella organisation to lobby the corridors of power on issues like rural unemployment and housing. So what went wrong?
- The Times immediately identified the Movement as a front for hunting, shooting and land-owning interests. The Scotsman called it a Trojan horse for the promotion of bloodsports. Even the Daily Telegraph carried an article ten days after the launch criticising the Movement for promoting conflict between town and country by exaggerating urban ignorance. The Guardian did a demolition job, publishing extracts from confidential minutes of meetings held from June 1995. These unceremoniously exposed the real reason for establishing the Countryside Movement and identified the source of its considerable funding. Animal rights campaigners were threatening the 'rural economy', meaning the vested interests of hunts, game shoot providers, landowners, farmers and agro-industry. According to the Guardian, Max Hastings, then editor of the Daily Telegraph, warned of the danger of being seen as the 'haves' against the 'have-nots', at the inaugural meeting on 21 June. He stressed the importance of tempting environmental groups to join and the need to campaign on non-controversial issues to draw in wide support. Alan Kilkenny, PR consultant for Lowe-Bell Communications, and Michael Sissons, pro-hunt journalist, wrote the proposal document for the new Movement.
- The Countryside Business Group (CBG), a fund-raising body, would provide the finance. A multi-million pound advertising campaign was planned. Bartle Bogle Hegarty (of Levi's jeans fame), were persuaded to undertake the advertising account. This caused raised eyebrows. Launching an IFAW campaign around five years ago, John Hegarty (of Bartle Bogle Hegarty) had pledged that he would never work for a pro-field sports organisation. The Peterborough column in the Daily Telegraph reported much ponytail shaking amongst staff at the agency, who would have preferred an alternative account with the RSPCA.
- Lord Ashcroft, client
- Kilkenny has employed the services of Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith and Rogers International since 2005. According to the FT (US), he has paid the Washington firm $1.34m since 2005 to lobby the US Justice Department and lawmakers on "judicial procedure and policy".
- The Lobbying disclosure register in the US also records that Kilkenny employed the services of another US lobbying firm Prism Public Affairs in 2007.
- Open Secrets lobbying database Alan Kilkenny 2005
- Putting PR in Prince, Stephen McGinty, The Scotsman, 5 November 2001
- Rob Evans, David Hencke, and David Pallister, US raises crime fears in Ashcroft tax haven, The Guardian, 4 June 2001.
- Palm Beacher Tollman pleads guilty, will pay $105 million to settle tax-evasion case By MICHELE DARGAN, Palm Beach Post, 10 Dec 2008
- Lobbyists struggling after Democratic win, Financial Times, 13-Apr-2007
- So what is the Countryside Movement up to? Judy Say, LAND ESSAYS 3, The Land Is Ours
- Lobbyists struggling after Democratic win, Financial Times, 13-Apr-2007