Fayed calls in Clifford to improve image

Britain's most infamous publicist, Max Clifford, has been recruited to turn around the image of Mohamed Al Fayed.

Britain's most infamous publicist, Max Clifford, has been recruited to turn around the image of Mohamed Al Fayed.

Mr Clifford confirmed yesterday he is to set up a team including Phil Hall, the former editor of the News of the World, to manage the public relations of the Harrods boss. Mr Fayed "has had a lot of problems caused by very bad advice", he said. "I'm not saying who is responsible for that but it's played a very important part".

The implication was that, with a PR supremo in place, the Egyptian tycoon can turn around his image in the British press. "Max has been angling for this for ages," said a friend, who also revealed that the deal is worth £300,000.

That will pay for the services of two hacks-turned-PR men - Mr Hall, and Alex Hitchen, a News of the World journalist, as Mr Fayed's press secretary. Mr Clifford will "oversee" the operation. The team replaces the former Sky Television presenter Laurie Mayer, who will leave his job as Mr Fayed's spokesman at the end of the month. Mr Clifford's coup was greeted in the PR business as a spectacular alliance of the Pharoah of Knightsbridge and the Sultans of Spin.

The press, even in the past few months, has made overt references to Mr Fayed's lack of grip on the truth, his overly litigious nature and his notoriously short attention span.

Mr Clifford said he would encourage Mr Fayed to move into new media, and that the team would be working on a biography. But he made no firm pledges on delivering one of Mr Fayed's deepest wishes, a UK passport. Can he do it? "Who knows?" he said. "I think he deserves it ... Watch this space."

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