PROFILE: Max Clifford, Max Clifford Associates; Biggest splash in the PR pond

At the PR school for scandal Max Clifford passed with flying colours

At the PR school for scandal Max Clifford passed with flying colours



‘People are petrified of me, I don’t know why,’ Max Clifford declares as

we settle down for a cup of tea and a chat in his cramped New Bond

Street office. I know why. Meeting Mr Fixit, also described as ‘the king

of kiss and tell’ and the greatest name in celebrity PR’ is an

intimidating experience.



Freddie Starr and hamster stare down from the off-yellow walls, the

phone rings constantly - ‘Max, it’s the Observer’,‘Max, it’s the Times’

- and mysterious women come and go, fuelling a hundred imaginary kiss-

and-tell scandals.



But minutes into the interview I realise that far from the sleaze

monster I expected, Clifford is clean-cut, friendly and unflappable. The

trademark bushy grey eyebrows are rarely raised, the deadpan voice never

changes.



Yet it is obvious Clifford is enjoying himself as we dissect the

previous week’s OJ coverage. ‘It was mission impossible,’ he says of

Simpson’s five-day UK tour. This is the first bit of positive publicity

OJ has received since the trial.



‘You don’t get anywhere by saying nothing. You have to face up to the

media, even if that same media is trying to destroy you,’ he adds.



Is it a problem that OJ’s 53-year-old PR adviser received almost as many

column inches as the former American football player, breaking the

golden rule that PRs should not come between their clients and the

spotlight?



‘The bigger the stage I’m at the centre of, the easier it is to direct

the spotlights on to anything I’m involved with or turn them off,’

Clifford responds.



‘At times it upset Copperfield (David) that I was getting coverage while

working on his show but you spend pounds 50,000 and get a million pounds

worth of exposure and that’s all that matters.’



Clifford is less eager to divulge his own financial status. Some say he

made between pounds 800,000 and a cool million last year, making him one

of the PR industry’s biggest earners. But then some say David Mellor

really did wear his football kit in bed. Wild tales gather round

Clifford like myths around a flame.



Even if only half true, the pay cheque’s not bad for someone who turns

up for work at around midday, leaves at 6pm and takes Wednesdays off to

play tennis and go shopping with his wife, Liz.



But the divide between home and work is not a clear one. Clifford

doesn’t have a mobile but is never far from a phone, clocking up a bill

of pounds 2,500 on a recent Caribbean holiday.



Despite the success of his company, Max Clifford Associates, which

handles a range of clients from Mohammed Ali and Frank Sinatra to the

Spanish car giant Seat, he has always been a one man band and Clifford

is not tempted to hire a partner.



‘I’m not being arrogant,’ he says, ‘but where am I gonna find anyone who

can do what I do?’



No one springs to mind. PR industry standards like writing press

releases, filling in time sheets and clearing ideas with the client just

don’t feature in Clifford’s world. He shrugs. ‘I can’t be subject to

disciplines like that. But if you want national coverage then leave it

to me. I’m a practical person who knows how the system works and takes

advantage of it.’



Clifford claims to have no desire to be accepted by the PR industry -

which treats him with a mixture of disdain, envy and curiosity.



‘The only time I’ve ever had any contact with other PRs I’ve never been

impressed,’ he says.



But the fact that Max Clifford is all the average punter knows of the

industry is cause for concern to some, such as the IPR president

Rosemary Brook. ‘He represents a small part of what is broadly called

PR: personality publicity,’ says Brook. ‘No one wants to know what real

PR is about as it doesn’t make catchy headlines.’



I ask Clifford, a guest at the recent 40th birthday celebrations of the

Sun editor Stuart Higgins, how he explains his pulling power with

editors.



‘In football terms if you keep getting goals people will want to sign

you,’ he explains.



‘I don’t kid myself it’s because they like my blue eyes,’ he adds

cracking a smile.



HIGHLIGHTS



1961 Trainee reporter, Merton and Morden News

1962 Press officer, EMI Records

1968 Founded Max Clifford Associates



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