Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (NSDQ: NWS) has called in PR and lobbying specialists Edelman to help the embattled company handle mounting public anger and political pressure over the phone-hacking scandal in the UK.
The PR company will report directly to Will Lewis, general manager of News Corp subsidiary News International, the publisher of Murdoch’s British newspapers.
The appointment of Edelman comes after 11 days of sustained coverage of the phone-hacking scandal, which has forced News International to close the News of the World and News Corp to abandon its BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) takeover.
Robert Phillips, chief executive of Edelman’s Europea, Middle East and African operations, said the company had been providing News International with “ad hoc” advice since 20 June – before the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone was made public – and was formerly appointed to provide “communications and public affairs support and counsel” to its management and standards group on Tuesday. This group is handling the internal inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.
The Edelman team will be run by Alex Bigg, its managing director for corporate affairs, and James Lundie, its managing director of public affairs. Lundie is the long-term partner of David Laws, the former chief secretary to the treasury.
Edelman will report to News International’s new management and standards committee, which consists of Lewis, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph who joined NI in 2010, Simon Greenberg, the director of corporate affairs who arrived in January, and general counsel Jeff Parker.
Edelman recently hired Ed Williams, the BBC director of communications, to head its UK operation. Williams is due to join Edelman on 31 October and it is understood he will not be involved in the company’s work for News Corp.
However, the BBC confirmed on Thursday that he will be leaving the corporation immediately.
Edelman last year hired the BBC’s former director of news, Richard Sambrook, to head up its “crisis and issues practice”. It is unclear whether he will be part of the firm’s News Corp team.
Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, handles the reputations of brands including Starbucks (NSDQ: SBUX), Pepsi and Burger King. The company, which has 51 offices around the world, was founded by Daniel J Edelman in 1952 and is currently led by his son Richard Edelman.
The public announcement of Edelman’s appointment comes after rumours suggested that Matthew Freud, founder of PR firm Freud Communications and husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth Murdoch, had been advising News Corp on the phone-hacking scandal.
On Thursday a spokeswoman for Freud Communications denied this. “Neither Matthew Freud or the agency was advising NI on this issue, nor had Freud advised on the closure of the News of the World.”
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.