My Greatest Mistake: Max Clifford, publicist

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The Independent Online

My biggest professional mistake was probably representing OJ Simpson while he was on a visit to Britain in 1996. Simpson's trial had recently finished, and he'd been acquitted of murdering his wife, Nicole. Everyone in the world had been totally gripped. I'd known OJ for many years - he had been a client of mine when he was the biggest football star in America, more than 20 years ago - and he asked me for help. I'd said I was happy to represent him when he came over to England.

I was the only white person in the world who believed him to be innocent, which I possibly still am. But I did, because I'd known him for a long time and I knew a lot about him. He had more self-control than anyone I'd met, and I was sure that he was innocent, so I was happy to stand in his corner.

Every professional, every friend and every newspaper editor told me, "You are absolutely mad - you will be crucified, your clients won't want to be associated with you, and you'll lose everything." But it was something I felt very strongly about. My wife said to me: "Max, you've had enough controversy - this is not something you should get involved with."

I didn't need to do it - I had a successful little business; I've never had to pitch for work - so it was potentially professional suicide, but I've always believed in standing up for what you believe in. I had death threats, too, but I'm used to those. At the time, it was a definite mistake, because I had nothing to gain and everything to lose. It was a very bad decision, and in the short term my business suffered, and I wasn't even being paid for it. Quite a few people who became clients a year or two later said that that they wouldn't have gone anywhere near me at the time.

It was a personal decision, but everything I've ever done has been on a personal decision. You have to back your own judgement, and I'm quite happy to sink or swim by mine; and I could easily have sunk. As the years have gone by, people now know that I'm more than happy to stand up even if everybody thinks I'm wrong.