2008 Agency Report Card

From The Holmes Report 2008

Sitrick & Company is still the go-to firm on the west coast for executives or celebrities whose reputations are in crisis. Clients during 2007 included Patricia Dunn, the former chairman of HP, who was indicted (all charges were eventually dropped) for her role in the company’s investigation into board-level leaks; controversial Clinton donor Norman Hsu; actor Wesley Snipes as he faced tax evasion charges; David Copperfield, after stories that he was being investigated for rape and assault; heiress Paris Hilton, on her release from jail; boxer Oscar de La Hoya, after digitally-altered photographs appeared on the Internet; and Warren Spector, deposed as chief executive of Bear Stearns at the end of the year. It’s not surprising that names like those attract the lion’s share of the attention, but Sitrick does much of its best work in sensitive situations that never make the headlines, or in situations that are not crises but nevertheless have serious implications.

Sitrick has earned the gratitude of clients and the (sometimes grudging) respect of reporters by approaching public relations challenges in much the same way a lawyer approaches a trial: the firm does its due diligence, researches the client and the issue, develops a strategy and then presents its case to the target audience the way a lawyer presents his or her case to a judge or jury. That means providing as much concrete evidence as possible to support the client’s argument to convince the “jury” (in this case, either the media or a client’s key constituents). It’s an approach well-suited to Sitrick’s areas of expertise, which typically find the firm working with corporations or individuals who are “on trial” in the court of public opinion.

The firm concentrates on corporate and executive reputation and, financial, transactional and crisis communications (including litigation). It is also home to perhaps the most concentrated congregation of journalistic talent in the public relations business. The vast majority of its senior professionals are former editors, reporters, and correspondents at such publications as Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, CBS News, and NPR, with most of the others having spent time in senior corporate communications positions. New additions in 2007 included Glenn Bunting, former reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury News, who was part of two Pulitzer winning teams; Jim Bates, a former deputy business and entertainment editor for the Los Angeles Times; Lance Ignon, who opened the firm’s San Francisco office and is a former vice president of Vax Gen; Ross Johnson, who reported for the New York Times and Esquire; and Brian Glicklich, who joined in an of counsel capacity and head of the strategic internet practice. In addition, Seth Faison, a former New York Times business reporter, transferred to the firm’s New York office as deputy head.

There was healthy growth last year, with work from a host of new clients including MBIA, Lennar Homes, Thomas H. Lee Equity, Fedders Corporation, Restoration Hardware, Wendy’s International, and Clearwire, while the firm continued to work with Fairfax Financial Holdings, Biovail Corporation, Broadcom, Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Company, Steel Partners, Gores Group, Delphi Corporation, Interstate Bakeries, Solutia, and Refco. Additional high-profile work included combating the rumors and false information from short sellers for MBIA; support for investor and Clinton pal Ron Burkle after former Page Six reporter Jared Stern requested cash in exchange for “protection” from inaccurate stories; a battle against short-sellers for Fairfax and Biovail; running a successful proxy fight in Korea for Steel Partners; helping with the launch of Tom Lee’s new fund; and working through bankruptcy issues for Delphi and Interstate Bakeries.

The firm has also developed a strategic alliance with Prism Public Relations in Washington, D.C.