The Virgin brand will not be damaged by a sexual harassment lawsuit
against chairman Richard Branson, Will Whitehorn, Virgin corporate
affairs director, told PR Week.
Following revelations that Elizabeth Hlinko, former Virgin Atlantic
Airways PR executive in Manhattan, was suing Branson for harassment and
discrimination, Whitehorn said: ‘There will be a PR fallout but I do
not think it will rumble on much longer. In the States where such
lawsuits are very common none of the networks carried the story.’
Whitehorn said Branson had been aware of the PR repercussions when he
opted to fight the charges, rather than agreeing to Hlinko’s request for
an out-of-court settlement.
‘You cannot build a major group of businesses in the US and not be
prepared to stand up for your reputation. Richard is doing exactly the
right thing,’ he said.
According to Whitehorn, Hlinko had been asked to leave Virgin last July,
after two years. He denied this was the result of discrimination, as she
He said that Hlinko had never mentioned Branson’s alleged sexual
assault, which she says occurred at a 1994 London media party, to any
other Virgin staff member.