Comms battle likely to continue despite Morgan Stanley CEO stepping down

NEW YORK: The months-long campaign to oust the embattled CEO of Morgan Stanley, orchestrated by Edelman, succeeded this week when Phillip Purcell stepped down in the face of intense criticism brought to bear by a group of former MS executives.

NEW YORK: The months-long campaign to oust the embattled CEO of Morgan Stanley, orchestrated by Edelman, succeeded this week when Phillip Purcell stepped down in the face of intense criticism brought to bear by a group of former MS executives.

The investment firm has worked with Kekst & Company throughout the battle over Purcell's leadership. Kekst partner Jeffrey Taufield declined to comment.

In a letter to employees, Purcell said his decision to resign was a result of "the continuing personal attacks on me, and the unprecedented level of negative attention our firm--and each of you--has had to endure."

Throughout the course of the battle, which began in earnest in March with a letter from the "Group of 8" to MS' board of directors, the two sides have each worked to put their own public face on the debate: MS, as a firm under attack from disgruntled outsiders, standing firmly behind its leader; and the Group of 8, as impassioned keepers of the firm's proud traditions, out to save it from poor leadership.

MS spokesman Andrew Walton declined to comment on the firm's communication strategy as it moves forward with its search for a new CEO. But it is widely expected that the Group of 8 will continue to add its voice to the debate on the company's future. In a statement released last week, the group called Purcell's resignation "an important and necessary first step," but gave no indication that they had any plans to abandon their communications campaign to change the direction of the firm.

MS made Purcell available for interviews following his announcement, including one with the Wall Street Journal in which he referred to the campaign against him as a "jihad" that "wasn't going to stop." That defiant tone was characteristic of the CEO's attitude throughout the battle.

Both MS and the Group of 8 will likely now focus even more of their attention on wooing the firm's institutional investors, whose approval could make or break the success of a new CEO.

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