Mystery American to lead troubled royal PR agency

LONDON: Jack Cassidy, an American PR and marketing consultant, has

been tapped to replace Murray Harkin as acting managing director for

R-JH Public Relations, the notorious UK firm co-owned by the Countess of

Wessex.



Cassidy was a non-executive director at the small agency, which has been

under intense scrutiny following the publication last Sunday of

transcripts of a conversation between the Countess (who is married to

Prince Edward), Harkin and a journalist posing as an Arab sheik and

potential client.



In the phony interview, staged by UK tabloid News of the World, Harkin

reportedly told the fake sheik that the firm could be involved in

arranging gay-sex parties at a hotel that is an R-JH client. And both

the Countess and Harkin alluded to her status as a member of the royal

family as a client benefit.



The pair have resigned their posts as a result of the incident. However,

the Countess remains a director.



Little has been revealed about Cassidy, except that he has 25 years of

PR experience and sat on R-JH's non-executive board for six months. One

paper reported that he hails from Pennsylvania and has worked for Calvin

Klein and Ralph Lauren in the US. In spite of repeated phone calls to

R-JH, no further information was offered about Cassidy.



The UK's Institute for Public Relations has launched an investigation of

Harkin. 'Members have expressed concerns about the allegations that Mr.

Harkin had breached the code of conduct,' said Ann Mealor, the

institute's assistant director.



One of R-JH's biggest clients, The Banyan Tree hotel in Thailand, is the

first to have yanked its account. According to an article in The

Guardian, Harkin mentioned the hotel in context with possible sex

parties. The paper also reported that the Countess posed for pictures

for Hello!, a glossy British magazine, at the Sotogrande resort in

Spain, without revealing the resort was a R-JH client.



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