Hershell Ezrin, GPC’s new chief executive, has spent most of the
past two months since he was appointed in mid-air between north America
and Europe: ’Somebody asked me what my permanent address was the other
day and I replied: ’on an aeroplane’,’ he laughs.
However, globe-trotting is by no means new to Ezrin. He was a diplomat
in the Canadian foreign service for the first 12 years of his
This included living in New Delhi for two years - where he learnt to
make a mean curry among other things - and in the US, where he was
instrumental in Canada’s drive to improve relations with its American
big brother during the 1970s as Canadian consul in Los Angeles and New
This diplomatic offensive amounted to a sort of high level PR exercise:
’It was a new kind of diplomacy, working with congressmen and senators
on their home territories as well as on Capitol Hill. We targeted 12 of
the Canadian consulates in the US to develop and maintain new kinds of
relationships with these people and with interest groups,’ he says.
This type of bridge-building seems to crop up again and again in Ezrin’s
career. As chief of staff to the future premier of Ontario, David
Petersen, Ezrin played a pivotal role in getting the Liberal party to
power in the province by securing an alliance with a coalition party,
the New Democrats.
Similarly, at Canadian conglomerate the Molsen Companies, which lists
production of Molsen beer among its wide-ranging activities, he
describes his job as ’the senior trouble shooter for the CEO.’
His remit there included having to pacify the entire cast of a Broadway
musical which was being funded by the company in 1988, a few days into
the job, when the executive producers decided the piece needed to be 30
minutes shorter. ’I was the bad guy. I was doing what I was told. The
musical turned out very well, that’s all I’m going to say. I was happy
to be supportive of what was the right decision.’
This assessment of his PR escapade on Broadway reflects the way a
lifetime of diplomacy, politics and PR seems to have permeated Ezrin’s
outlook on life. His language is as ’on-message’ as Tony Blair’s and his
tone never errs on the wrong side of the politically correct divide.
’GPC is poised for another round of international growth. We’ve had the
biggest year we’ve ever had in Brussels and London,’ he beams with
genuine self-belief. The fact that 11 consultants have quit the firm’s
London office in the past six months is airbrushed away with the fact
that: ’we’ve had more people come in than leave’.
As head of the consultancy which formerly employed Derek Draper of
’Drapergate’ fame, Ezrin chooses his words especially carefully when
assessing the impact of the cash for access allegations made in the
Observer last July which implicated Draper. ’What our clients have told
us is they respect and value the work we’ve done,’ he says, arguing that
the scandal has affected the public affairs industry as a whole, rather
than specific agencies.
As well as working on key clients and managing the firm’s 300 staff,
Ezrin has plans to expand GPC’s international network well beyond its
Canadian homebase and European operations. In particular, he has set his
sights on the US. The firm currently only operates in Washington DC but
is in talks to create a wider presence.
’Bringing the GPC International brand together is one of my challenges.
People in the company have not yet seen the relationships which are
starting to develop as we send people back and forth. Some of the London
people are going to Canada next week,’ says Ezrin. At this rate, he is
unlikely to ever step off that aeroplane.
Diplomat, Canadian Foreign Service
Chief of staff for Ontario Liberal leader, David Petersen
Senior vice-president, corporate and public affairs, Molsen Companies
Chairman, GPC Canada
Chief executive, GPC International