H&K retained to help straighten Priceline

NORWALK, CT: Priceline, once one of the darlings of the new economy, has drafted Hill & Knowlton to help it battle a major confidence crisis.

NORWALK, CT: Priceline, once one of the darlings of the new economy, has drafted Hill & Knowlton to help it battle a major confidence crisis.

NORWALK, CT: Priceline, once one of the darlings of the new economy, has drafted Hill & Knowlton to help it battle a major confidence crisis.

Brian Ek, Priceline's VP of communications, confirmed the appointment, but refused to go into detail.

Harlan Teller, H&K's EVP of worldwide corporate communications, would not outline the agency's role in battling the crisis but said: 'We've been retained to provide corporate communications counsel.'

H&K is understood to be focusing its attention on Priceline's involvement in a consumer fraud investigation in Connecticut.

But that is only one of a number of major issues facing the online giant, founded in 1998 by Web entrepreneur Jay Walker, which has seen its stock price fall from a 52-week high of dollars 102 to just over dollars 2 as of last week.

The number of pending lawsuits is also increasing as the crisis goes on.

Law firms, including Scott & Scott and Schoengold & Sporn, have been notifying the press of action taken by disgruntled shareholders via PR Newswire.

The firm's largest investors include Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures and Liberty Media.

Priceline CEO Dan Schulman attributed the stock drop to 'significant negative publicity' surrounding the closure of affiliate Webhouse Club and the departure of CFO Heidi Miller. In mid-November, Fortune magazine looked at the losses incurred by Priceline's backers, and CBS' current affairs show 48 Hours has also studied the firm's problems.

Priceline's PR strategy has been criticized by both analysts and reporters who claim that the company is failing to provide adequate response to the negative attacks. However Priceline continues to run Hill, Holliday, Connors Cosmopulos Advertising's TV spot starring William Shatner.

H&K's crisis experience includes advising the International Olympic Committee and supporting Swiss Air during a major airline disaster.



- See client profile, page 12.



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