‘Political agenda’ behind calls for B-M head to quit

Burson-Marsteller’s UK chairman has defended the agency’s global head, after calls for his resignation made national headlines in the US this week.

Grant: denies conflict of interest
Grant: denies conflict of interest

US labour activists have given B-M’s global CEO Mark Penn an ultimatum: ­resign as head of the PR conglomerate or step down as Hillary Clinton’s top campaign aide.

Penn has been the worldwide CEO of B-M since 2005. He is also a lead strategist for Senator Clinton, who is pressing for endorsement from trade unions ahead of her presidential bid. 

It is claimed that Penn’s links with B-M’s anti-union clients could compromise Clinton’s campaign.

But B-M UK chair Gavin Grant insisted there was no conflict of interest, calling the attack on Penn’s dual roles ‘part of another political agenda’.

US unions including the Communications Workers of America, which represents 700,000 employees in the media sector, have ­accused Penn of profiting from anti-union business. In particular, they have highlighted B-M client Cintas, a US manufacturer that has avoided unionising its workforce thanks to the agency’s work on staving off pressure.

Penn’s divided loyalties as agency CEO and Clinton strategist have caused him to invoke B-M’s conscience clause, whereby he has avoided personally working for clients because of personal beliefs.

He told the LA Times he has had no connection to anti-union clients since starting at B-M, and has thus far refused to part ways with the agency.

Grant insisted there have been no calls internally for Penn’s resignation.

He added that he ‘would be astonished’ if any of B-M’s global clients expressed concern about these attacks on the agency and its leader.

New York PR sources close to Penn agreed. ‘The unions have some power, but not nearly as much as they did in the past,’ said one.

‘I just don’t think they will be able to make a serious case for ousting him or ­getting him to resign.’

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