NEW YORK: Last week, PR veteran Howard Rubenstein found himself caught in a caustic legal battle between his client, real-estate mogul Larry Silverstein, and insurance giant Swiss Re.
Silverstein, who held the lease on the World Trade Center, is at odds with Swiss Re over whether the terrorist attacks - that saw two planes destroy both towers - constituted two separate events, or one. Silverstein claims it was two. If he wins, he could receive an insurance payment covering both towers.
In a statement that followed a legal brief filed last week in the pending civil case, Swiss Re asserted that Silverstein and his advisers, including Rubenstein, were plotting to "spin the facts" within a day of the attack to maximize financial gain.
At the center of this dispute is a September 12, 2001 memo from Rubenstein to Silverstein obtained by PRWeek. It outlines for Silverstein three possible public stances: rebuilding the WTC; rebuilding with government aid; or not rebuilding.
Swiss Re suggested the last option was designed to allow Silverstein to pocket an insurance settlement.
"It is inconceivable that we could rebuild a place of commerce on land that has become drenched with blood of American patriots," reads a part of a memo labeled, "Positions for Discussion and Consideration."
"These allegations are cynical and have no merit," said Gerald McKelvey, Rubenstein PR EVP. "Howard didn't even write the memo, and there was no consideration given to legal strategy at that point. It was about helping a client cope with a tragedy."
McKelvey said he didn't think Silverstein had ever seen the memo, which he said Rubenstein staffers had written.