Viagogo Spruces Its Public Image

Having seen its reputation take a pounding from a TV documentary that investigated the secondary ticketing market, Viagogo has hired PR whiz kid Oli Wheeler as its global communications director.

Wheeler, described as “an expert in crisis communications” by PR Week, has spent the last 18 years at Freud Communications, which has looked after Viagogo’s public relations since it launched in 2006.

“It was a huge decision to leave Freuds having spent almost all my working life at the agency,” Wheeler told the weekly PR business trade magazine.

“However, I have worked with Viagogo for the past six years and it is a very impressive, consumer-focused business,” he said. “I am excited to be joining a company that is not only the leader in its field, but also one of Europe’s most successful internet companies.”

Wheeler’s clients at Freud, where he was longstanding right-hand man to company chief Matthew Freud, included PepsiCo, Yum Brands and Birds Eye.

One of Wheeler’s first tasks at Viagogo may be putting a gloss on why the UK company has shifted its operational base to Switzerland.

Viagogo UK recently changed its name and put itself into liquidation, transferring its business to Viagogo AG, which is registered in Geneva and has offices in Zurich.

The Safeconcerts website points out that the move to Switzerland also means buyers and sellers of tickets are no longer dealing with a UK company and that any problems with Viagogo would now be settled under Swiss law.

The switch to being registered in Switzerland could also be a maneuver that enables Viagogo to sell tickets for the Olympic Games without falling foul of UK law – even though it’s still operating from its London office.

The apparent move overseas could also mean it will be harder for the UK courts to enforce a ruling ordering Viagogo to make the names of some of its clients known to the Rugby Football Union.

The RFU’s rules prohibit the resale of match tickets for more than face value. The organisation wants to know which of its members placed tickets on Viagogo for the 2010 Investec internationals and the 2011 Six Nations Championship.

Last March High Court judge Mr. Justice Tugendhat ruled that Viagogo must reveal the names and addresses of those who placed tickets, a decision backed by the Appeal Court Dec. 9.

Viagogo has vowed to continue the legal battle and insists that it won’t divulge the names of its clients, although moving out of the UK courts’ jurisdiction could be an easier and arguably cheaper option.