Chapter 27 - Why I left Edelman
Much has been speculated about my departure from Edelman in 1992. and until now I have not discussed it in public but I think it is timely to end all the many rumours that followed the PR Week story that I was to leave the agency. The most outrageous one brought to my attention was that I had got too big for my boots and had been fired.
I had been with the one agency for 24 years which in the PR business was simply unheard of. I had reached the position of vice chairman of the company and that was as high as anyone could get in a family firm which had a succession plan well in place. I was still relatively young, didn’t fancy the idea of becoming a ‘gold watch’ pensioner and began to wonder about if there was life after Edelman for me.
I shared my concerns with Dan Edelman and told him that I wanted to leave the firm. His instant reaction was shock, that one of his ‘surrogate sons’ wanted to quit the family and to his credit he did try to make me change my mind with overly generous offers.
For example, he offered me to relocate with Beryl to Hong Kong to build an operation in Asia.. This was a great opportunity for someone but not me, a dyed in the wool Londoner with strong parental responsibilities.
From then we had a ‘Mexican Stand Off’ for the next few months and the relationship between us became taut... On several occasions we did have, what the politicians describe, as a ‘full and frank discussion” .
One night he called me at home to say he had decided to fire me.
He had absolutely no justification for such action and I told him that I would take him and the company to court if he did..
He knew after working together for so long that I never made an idle threat and he quickly backed away but at that point I decided to take legal advice. I was saddened by the situation but clearly had to be prepared to defend myself.
Luckily my lawyer was not the typical advocate who couldn’t wait to get into court; her approach was to avoid using the legal system to resolve such disputes, if there was a less painful and less costly way.
With my approval she telephoned the firm’s lawyers and within a couple of days they had worked out what is best described as ‘a divorce’ with neither side accepting blame.
Fortunately any bitterness was soon forgotten and in 2002 I was one of 11 Edelman Alumni honoured at the company’s 50th anniversary. At the party in New York I took this opportunity to publicly thank Dan for giving me the chance to enter public relations.
I continue to have the greatest respect for Dan Edelman. He is the ultimate pubic relations consultant but above all else I admire tenacity and unrelenting commitment to maintaining the firm’s independence and integrity of the profession.
His great strengths have been the foundation on which his son Richard has built the firm into a 21st century global powerhouse.
I was surprised he never understood my point of view; I was equally disappointed by Michael Morley’s lack of support for me. I had openly come to Michael’s side when many years earlier both Dan and Richard expressed serious doubts about his ability to make it in the US.
I prevailed on more than one occasion to give him more time, which they did . He eventually became a huge success for Edelman, helping to win and serve many important international clients and his success has continued since and he has established himself in his own right as a communications specialist and author.