Stamford, Conn. – Dead witnesses, “Black bag” consultants promoting Islamofacism, CIA cover ups... here's a story that's sure to go down as one of the more bizarre cases in annals of white collar crime. It has been learned that a Fairfield County grand jury has reopened an investigation into the 2002 slaying of Stamford businessmen Pasquel Valentine and Al Tate. Now being referred to as the "Ultimate Severance Case," it is now alleged that this investigation first went cold as part of an elaborate government cover up.
By way of background, in September 2002, Valentine and Tate, principles of the high-level PR strategy consultancy Valentine-Tate, Inc. of Stamford Connecticut, mysteriously disappeared only to be found two weeks later buried in a sand trap near the 6th-hole green at the Pound Ridge Country Club north of New Canaan. According to the coroner's office, the exact cause of death was not known but they "both appeared to have fallen from a high place." After a year and a half without any further leads the case went cold and was subsequently listed as "unsolved."
Fast forward to Spring 2005, former PR executive James Baar releases the popular novel "Ultimate Severance." Baar's novel coincidentally is a fictional exposé of the murder of two global agency executives, Trotter Pugg Mitchell CEO Marvin Runnymede and TPM Executive Vice President Grant Pinky. The two are killed when they fall 46 floors in a private elevator shaft that had been recently “repaired” by mob enforcers. In the novel, the murders are ordered by the mob to cover up details of the agency’s service offering, the "Corporate Governance Program," where large fee assures permanent removal of executives blocking corporate takeovers.
It has been learned that audio tapes, recently delivered to Connecticut police in an unmarked package, disclose that Valentine-Tate had established a cut-off PR consultancy, the Iman Group whose sole purpose was to build a peace-loving image of Islamofacist organizations in America. According to the tapes, Iman (“faith” in Arabic) originally was funded and supported by Fatah with rogue CIA money and protection. Informed sources say that both money and protection dried up with recent victories of Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza.
Reached for comment, Baar insists that “Ultimate Severance” is a “work of fiction but obviously all fiction has to be based on something.” Baar would not comment further on advice of his attorney. However, his attorney said he'd be releasing a statement in the next few days.
Ken Wolfson is a freelance investigative reporter. Wolfson's career spans more than 25 years. He began his career in the late 1980s at the infamous San Francisco alternative paper, People's Gazette; and in 1986, joined the Financial News Network as director of investigative reporting. In 1993 Ken gained national notoriety for his investigation into the pharma industry which was the subject of the Academy-Award-nominated documentary film "Dr. Feel Good." Wolfson, co-founder of the Stamford Center for Investigative Journalism, is also the recipient of numerous Emmys and other honors, including three Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University silver and golden Baton awards, two Peabodys and a Polk Award.
Posted by Amanda Chapel Thursday, February 15, 2007
5WPR CEO Scores with Girls Gone Wild
Here’s one that comes with mixed emotions and deep regret. Got a note from someone I consider a friend yesterday. Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, sent me an e-mail announcing a new client. Good for him, I thought. Continued success, I thought. I love that guy! But here’s the twist: Turns out, the whole thing has made me really question his principles and judgment. Apparently, Ronn has decided to cash in on hot barely-legal girl-on-girl action.
Here's the deal: Wednesday 5WPR announced that they'd been hired by Mantra Films as agency of record. Mantra Entertainment produces the “Girls Gone Wild” video series. Maybe you’ve seen them advertised on late-night cable. The videos feature a camera crew patrolling bars and stalking college spring break-like venues in search of young attractive typically "crunk" girls who agree to expose themselves. Harmless one would think... sorta year-round Marti Gras. Show your boobies for a string of beads. Hey, I’ve done that! (So I'm told.) So what?
Anyway, my first reaction was to send a sincere congrats to Ronn. I even thought there might be a potential tie-in with Strumpette. What the hell! Women making a personal choice; owing their sexuality; that's powerful. All good right? Well, that’s at least what I was thinking first thing this morning. I got up, set and determined to write a wee bit of a puff-piece about 5W (truth be known). Then I started to do a little research on “Girls Gone Wild.” Googled variously. Ended up on their site. Yikes! Reread Ronn’s release where 5W is “to provide marketing communications support.” DOUBLE YIKES!! 5WPR in bed with a pornographer! Oh boy. I contacted Ronn directly.
Okay, let’s back up. A few weeks ago we ran a piece likening Ronn to a Rock Star in the PR Industry. He’s truly a master showman that does not disappoint. He delivers results. When it comes to publicity, he’s the man that’s going to make things happen. As we had said, Ronn's made a national name for himself for good reason. Funny, when we had completed the article, I had asked if he might send along a picture of himself sporting sunglasses and wailing on a guitar. He responded, “If I did (have pics) I wouldn’t send them.... it’s a PR piece and biz stuff.” I admired his judgment.
But Girls Gone Wild?! Ronn describes it as "an iconic brand which reaches 25,000 young consumers per week and has a unique position in today’s youth market."
See, that captures it. I think it's the girl-on-girl barely-18 tongue-to-ass action that has Ronn confused. But can you blame him? If that doesn’t describe PR today, what does?
In my conversations with Ronn and Kevin Mercuri, SVP at 5W, they provided the following rationale:
- PR agencies take on controversial clients just like lawyers represent controversial public figures. We may not be under oath like an attorney, but we are believers in the First Amendment.
- If we’re going to be chastised for working with Joe Francis (GGW CEO), then: 1. The agency that represents Hilton Hotels should also be chastised, since Hilton’s in-room pay-per-view volume is almost one-third porn; and 2. The agency that represents Time Warner should be chastised since they allow pay-per-view porn in hundreds of thousands of US households.
- Even large, respected companies have laundry lists. It’s a sad reflection on the state of business in the US, but laying the blame on that company’s external service providers isn’t the answer. This is what PR folks do. We create and maintain positive perceptions for clients.
- But you’re holding us to your own personal standards. If you were a gun control advocate, you’d have a similar reaction if we signed Heckler & Koch. If you were a staunch environmentalist, you’d gag if we signed General Electric. Hill & Knowlton represents the Bin Laden family. Does the fact that GE makes energy-saving light bulbs for American households absolve them for polluting the river and poisoning children?
- He [Joe Francis] attends every single major event in the US - From the Grammys to NBA All Star Games.
- Youth is college market - Are they not having sex?
- Girls Gone Wild came to 5W PR because we’ve helped leaders in the entertainment world break into the business media and be recognized. Francis is generally recognized as the genius behind Girls Gone Wild, and boyfriend to various starlets; yet he presides over a 400 employee empire spanning the US and Europe that’s worth over one hundred million dollars. It’s our job to tell the bigger business story."
First to respond to 5W’s rationale: The lawyer analogy is crap. 5W is going to help them with marketing. With regard to "all companies have dirty laundry," no; they don’t. Furthermore, we’re not talking about what GGW did; we’re talking about what 5W is going to do.
Here's the bigger business story in a nutshell: Joe Francis is a pornographer that preys on the young and vulnerable and sells the booty to the seemingly endless parade of Chris Hanson perverts. 5W is going to help Francis sell more.
But that aside, this really comes down to PR 101. This is all about the perception of impropriety and guilt by association. Here:
Sorry to rain on 5W's dubious good fortune. Let’s look at the positive. Here are a few potential superlatives that we might draw from all this: I can imagine that they can now claim to be the home of the industry’s first Porn Practice. Certainly, “account service cums first.” Certainly, 5W will become renowned for their late-night “Bust-a-Nut Group Brainstorming Sessions.” And what client wouldn’t see the value in an account team that’s tested once a month? Lastly, it sure looks like the boys at 5W are like to single-handedly and feverishly reverse the overall female profile of the PR business.
Seriously, I predict this: This will be the basis of the industry’s largest sexual harassment suit ever.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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