Olswang advised Jeremy Clarkson during his high-profile falling out with the BBC over a 'fracas' with a producer.
We've all been there. Tired. Irritable. In dire need of a succulent steak to round off a hard day's filming. But unfortunately Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson took it a step too far, thumping producer Oisin Tymon in the face when the piping hot goods weren't promptly delivered. This was one mega-tantrum too far, and Clarkson was going to need a media pro to help patch things up. Fortunately for him, Olswang – whose name is still synonymous with the media industry – stepped up to the challenge and represented Clarkson throughout the ensuing disciplinary investigation.
Top Gear was one of the BBC's most popular shows, attracting millions of viewers per episode, making it one of the most-streamed programmes on iPlayer. With such an appetite for car-talk, fans were understandably upset when the show was axed and Clarkson suspended. And they let their anger be known: a petition to reinstate him was signed by over one million people and dramatically delivered to the BBC on a tank ridden by a man dressed as The Stig. Even prime minister David Cameron spoke up for his old pal, calling the star a “huge talent.”
At the BBC tribunal, Olswang's senior partner Mark Devereux acted for Clarkson, while Slater & Gordon stepped in for Tymon. The decision was not one fans wanted to hear: the outspoken presenter's contract would not be renewed. In the aftermath, BBC director-general Tony Hall made a statement: “A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.” Without Clarkson in the line-up, fellow Top Gear presenters James May and Richard Hammond abandoned ship, declining to sign new deals for the next series.
But was Clarkson simply going to take this? No way. He now turned to US litigation firm Quinn Emanuel to see if a commercial case could be brought against the BBC for breach of contract. It was reported that the presenter may have switched advisers because of a possible conflict of interest with Olswang: the BBC is one of its key clients, after all. The firm recently advised it when entertainment company AMC paid $200 million for a 49.9% stake in cable channel BBC AMERICA.
So will Top Gear's army of fans be exhibiting withdrawal symptoms for long? We're sure they'll be satisfied soon, as breakfast radio host Chris Evans is lined up to present the latest series of the show. But if viewers still find themselves pining for the chemistry between Clarkson, Hammond and May, there's another option: all three went on to sign a deal with Amazon, and will be creating an exclusive new car show for Prime Video.