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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - Dec. 10, 2012 - Vol. 45 - No. 49 (download PDF version)

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MEDIA NEWS ____________________


Jason Schechter, chair of Burson-Marsteller’s U.S. corporate practice, has left the firm for the chief communications officer slot at Bloomberg L.P. in New York.


Schechter takes the role vacated by another Burson alum, Richard Powell Jr., who joined Bloomberg last year and left in July to serve as president of the advisory firm Teneo Strategy.

He exits B-M after five years and earlier was a senior VP at Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, the WPP unit which merged with Finsbury earlier this year.

Schechter, a former assistant press secretary for the Clinton White House, leads global communications strategy for the media and information services giant, which the New York Times reports today is weighing a bid for the Financial Times.

Dan Doctoroff, the former deputy to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who is president and CEO of Bloomberg L.P., said Schechter will help the company communicate as it broadens “the scope of our activities into new markets and new offerings.”

Kevin Sheekey, another adviser to Bloomberg as mayor, leads government relations and corporate communications, as well as the company’s government unit.


U.K. PR legend Max Clifford was arrested on “suspicion of sexual offenses,” according to reports.

Clifford, 69, runs London-based Max Clifford Associates and has represented high-profile clients during a 40-year career in PR. Clients include Simon Cowell, and Boux Avenue.

The BBC said officers in a British police investigation known as Operation Yewtree, which is probing child sex abuse by deceased BBC host Jimmy Savile, arrested Clifford but said the arrest is not connected to the allegations made against Savile.

Clifford’s lawyer said in a statement that the PR guru is being interviewed by police. “Mr. Clifford will assist the police as best he can with their inquiries,” said attorney Charlotte Harris. “When we are in a position to provide further information, we will.”

Clifford told the Associated Press in October that he was fielding calls from high-profile prospective clients concerned about involvement in the Savile investigation.

After being released, Clifford called the allegations “damaging and totally untrue,” adding, “Anyone who really knew me all those years ago and those who have known me since will have no doubt that I would never act in the way that I have today been accused,” according to RTE News.

Clifford told reporters outside of the police station where he was questioned that he thought he was facing two allegations dating back to 1977.

A charity event hosted by Clifford on Dec. 10 was slated to be held as scheduled, despite the arrest. The event raises funds to help a Surrey boy, Numan Milton Tomkins, achieve his dream of walking unaided for the first time.



Amid conflicting reports on his whereabouts and job status, the U.S. State Dept. said Dec. 5 that it believes the high-profile spokesman for Syria’s foreign ministry, Jihad Makdissi, has fled Syria for London.

“If true, this is obviously another sign of the regime crumbling from within as those closest to [Syrian president Bashar al-]Assad are realizing that the end is nigh,” said State Dept. spokesman Mark Toner.

Makdissi’s disappearance fueled several speculative media reports, including a Guardian Dec. 4 dispatch that said he had defected and was on his way to the U.S.

Reports from the U.K. after Toner’s remarks denied Makdissi is in London, however.

“I don’t know that we’ve reached out in any way,” said Toner. “Again, I don’t think we can – we can only now confirm that we believe that he’s in London; we can’t confirm that. I can’t speak to whether we’ll reach out to him in any way, shape, or form.”

Lebanese media reported that Makdissi was fired for making statements that didn’t reflect government positions, according to Al Arabiya, which noted his home was burned shortly after his exit by a pro-government militia. The Syrian government said it would address Makdissi’s departure but has yet to speak of it.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Makdad, told Sky News that Makdissi had not defected and was on a “three-month sabbatical.”

Al Arabiya said Makdissi was the highest ranking Christian in the Assad government and one of the few members who speaks English. He had been the country’s foreign ministry spokesman for 14 years.

Toner said Dec. 7 that Makdissi’s whereabouts were unknown, saying “of course a spokesperson is an important part of any government, but seriously, we have no idea where he is, and it just, I think, is a further indication, however, that those around Assad are looking for the exits.”


The studio behind the anticipated “Hobbit” film preparing for release has moved to counter a widely quoted press report that a screening in a new 3D technology left viewers feeling woozy.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported on “Hobbit Headaches” on Dec. 4 while the U.K.’s Sunday Times noted dizzy fans were left “sick as a hobbit” a few days earlier.

In a statement from Warner Bros. Pictures director of publicity, Stephanie Phillips, said the film, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” has been screened extensively with “extremely positive” feedback.

Warner Bros., also speaking for New Line Cinema and MGM Pictures, said none of the thousands who have seen the screening in 3D expressed “any of the issues described by two anonymous sources in media reports.”

The studio has invested a reported $250M in the film, the first in an expected trilogy.

The Sunday Times sparked the spate of negative coverage Dec. 2 with its story of dizzy spells and nausea among a screening audience in New Zealand, where the

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