Tim Rycroft

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Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

Tim Rycroft was the government and public affairs director with Diageo in the UK. He is now Corporate Relations Director Global Travel & Middle East. He was hired by Diageo in 2003 for the purpose of facilitating "closer liaison" with the government on the National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy.[1] Prior to this Rycroft worked as a communications consultant for Lowe Bell/Bell Pottinger, Rycroft was also a ministerial special adviser from 1994 to 1997, first to Jeremy Hanley, Minister without Portfollio and chairman of the Conservative Party, and later to Steven Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health. [2] [3]

Rycroft also 'spent six months on secondment as Head of Public Affairs for the BBC.'[4]

After leaving government Rycroft became Head of Corporate Affairs at Boots Healthcare International. His role involved promoting the contribution private medicine sales could have in reducing state-funded health care costs.[5].

Rycroft resigned from Boots and returned to Bell Pottinger as a senior consultant. His resignation from Boots followed that of Ian Wright, the then Boots communications director, who left the company to join Diageo, where three years later Rycroft joined him.[6] Rycroft also worked with Wright in 1990 when Rycroft was SDP National Secretary. [7]

An invoice allegedly from Bell Pottinger to the Sri Lankan president for an 'overseas propaganda campaign' breaks down the cost of the exercise. In the breakdown Rycroft's name appears next to a charge of £4216 for flights to Colombo and £5143 for accommodation. The total bill for the campaign came to £290,581.73. Other colleagues of Rycroft were also named and included Lord Bell, David McDonough, Francis Halewood and Mark Turnbull.[8]


Rycroft at Diageo

Writing in Public Affairs News, a PR trade publication, Rycroft outlined Diageo GB's strategy to combat irresponsible drinking:

In February 2006, Diageo GB took a significant step forward into new territory as it launched a TV advertising campaign with two ads entitled ‘Many Me’ and ‘Mirror’. The ads encourage people to reconsider their attitudes to alcohol by demonstrating both the way in which responsible drinking can facilitate a great night out and also the negative impact irresponsible drinking can have on consumers and the way others perceive them. The ads also show the positive impact of being in control and at your social best. It is an empowering message, showing that ultimately how people drink comes down to personal choice.

After writing about all of Diageo's charitable work to promote the sensible drinking message in student unions and the development of the All Bar None competition Rycroft went on to say:

Although Diageo’s marketing code strictly forbids it from communicating with those under the legal purchase age for alcohol, this does not mean that the company is not active in promoting responsible drinking education in schools; we do this through funding credible third-party organisations.

The extent of Diageo funded 'education' was also revealed:

Our work in schools is a source of immense pride for all our employees and, following a successful tour of schools across England and Scotland in January-March 2005, the CragRats theatre tour, funded by Diageo GB, recommenced in January 2006. This year’s tour reached more than 43,000 secondary school pupils – a large increase on last year [9]


Rycroft was active in lobbying the Scottish Government in 2005 on the possibility of certain drinks promotions being outlawed. Diageo responded loudly, in both local and trade press calling the proposal "over the top". Rycroft told the Scotsman "We support the principle that deep discounting is irresponsible," Diageo's government affairs director Tim Rycroft told the paper, "but banning any discount on additional measures is going too far."[10] The media attention was followed by a written submission to Ministers warning that such action would "restrict unnecessarily the commercial freedom of responsible licensees". The Licensing Act, Scotland (2005) did not ban promotions on alcohol sales.

In March 2006 Rycroft and a colleague, Geoffrey Bush, were guest speakers at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Corporate Responsibility. Reportedly a lively debate ensued and even the representative from Alcohol Concern acknowledged that Diageo was one of the more responsible alcohol companies.[11]


  1. PR Week UK 11th April 2003, Brand Republic Website Diageo to step up lobby work after comms overhaul accessed 26th August 2008
  2. Tax Free World Association, Middle East Duty free conference, Biographical notes Tim Rycroft, accessed 27 August 2008
  3. House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 1st May 2001 accessed 26th August 2008
  4. Tax Free World Association, Middle East Duty free conference, Biographical notes Tim Rycroft, accessed 27 August 2008
  5. Paul Evers BBI News letter August 1999, BNET Website The future of European health care is seen in changing mix of public, private sectors accessed 28th August 2008
  6. Nina Jacobs, PR Week 5th May 2000, Rycroft quits Boots to rejoin Bell Pottinger accessed 27th August 2008
  7. The David Owen Papers, Liverpool University Special Collections & Archive D709 3/1 - D709 3/12 - SDP Papers Groups 1-12 accessed 27th August 2008
  8. The Sunday Times Opposite Editorial 30th December 2001 President's pre-poll propaganda blitz costs a packet accessed August 2008
  9. Tim Rycroft Public Affairs News, July 2006 FOCUS: PUBLIC HEALTH – Counter Culture accessed August 26th 2008
  10. Just Drinks, 11th May 2005 SCOTLAND: Diageo lobbies against drinks offers ban accessed August 26th 2008