Richard Weiner, 86, a native of Brooklyn who built a PR firm that billed $4.5 million and had 83 employees in 1985, and who sold it to BBDO in 1986, died in Miami Jan. 29.

dick weinerHis firm, No. 25 in the 1985 O’Dwyer rankings, in 1983 ignited the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of Coleco Industries that swept the country. The company was unable to keep up with demand for the dolls, each of which had its own “personality” and came with “adoption papers.”

Weiner, who had won the account from Hill and Knowlton, sparked the fad by winning segments on three network morning TV shows in early November. He had introduced the dolls at a press conference in the Central Park Zoo in June.

Despite the overwhelming publicity obtained for the product, Weiner later said his firm never made much money off it.

Coleco, which also sold the Adam Home Computer, another product beset by supply problems, went bankrupt in 1988 and Hasbro and others took over production.

Weiner a Prolific Author, Lecturer

newsweekWeiner’s 23 books included Webster’s New World Dictionary of Media and Communications (1996); Professional’s Guide to PR Services (1998); Professional’s Guide to Publicity (1984), and The Skinny About Best Boys, Dollies, Green Rooms, Leads and other Media Lingo (2006).

He conducted more than 100 workshops for PR Society of America and other groups including the National Institutes of Health, and taught a three-credit course in PR at Fordham University Graduate School of Business Administration. It was the first such course for MBAs. He also taught at New York Institute of Technology.

Weiner’s firm specialized in marketing publicity, working for clients such as Bristol-Myers, Cigar Assn. of America, GTE Telephones, General Foods, Hebrew National Foods, Mattel, Philip Morris, Smith-Corona, Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi-Cola, Suburu, Volvo, Colonial Penn and AARP.

Sold Firm to BBDO

Weiner sold the firm to BBDO in 1986 which was then merged with Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham, Harper & Steers to form the Omnicom Group. Omnicom merged the Weiner firm with BBDO-owned Doremus and the Porter Novelli PR unit of Needham Harper. Porter Novelli was the surviving name although Weiner was its biggest unit. Weiner left the firm in 1988 but kept an office in New York until he moved to Florida in 2002.

He received a B.S. in 1949 from the University of Wisconsin and an M.S. from the same school in 1950 with genetics as his major field of study. He took one journalism course—scientific newswriting.

Weiner was admitted to the University’s medical school but dropped out after the first year.

After living in Madison, Wis., from 1943-53, where he partnered with Morton Levine in a PR firm, he moved to New York where he obtained a job with Ruder Finn.

He rose to senior VP and partner, supervising a group of consumer product accounts, remaining until 1968 when he started his own firm.

Press Relations Was Paramount at Weiner

The Weiner firm was noted for its cordial relations with the press.

Weiner himself was always available for phone or in-person conversations and reporters were welcome at his offices at 888 Seventh ave.

His art of building relations with reporters included sending reporters clips of articles that related to their beats. A widely-read person, he would call reporters with tips and advice for their stories.

His awards include the Gold Anvil of PR Society of America and the John Hill Award of the New York chapter of the Society.

He wrote a monthly column on language for PR Tactics of PRSA and other articles for Communication World of the Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators, PR Quarterly and Writer’s Digest. He wrote a substitute column on language for New York Times columnist Bill Safire when Safire was on vacation.

Married Florence Chaiken

Weiner, the son of George Weiner, who had a printing business in lower Manhattan, was married in 1956 to Florence Chaiken, author of Peace Is You and Me and other books in the healthcare field including two written in association with the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation, New York. (Full biography of Weiner - PDF)

Also surviving are two daughters, Jessica Lampert, who is married to Alan Lampert and lives in Stoughton, Mass., and Stephanie Weiner, married to Joe Losbaker, who lives in Chicago, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.