June 29, 2012

Blackwater's 'Master Of Disaster' Will Make You Forget Maclaren Was Ever Bankrupt

I owe Maclaren's new spokesman Mark Corallo of Corallo Media Strategies an apology. Yesterday when he sent out his press release asking that the "media" end its "confusion" and to kindly stop referring to Maclaren when talking about Maclaren USA's chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation mess, I offhandedly referred to Mr. Corallo as just some "branding crisis management consultant."

I admit, I had no basis for that description beyond the transparent purpose for obfuscating both the name and nature of Maclaren USA, which was to mitigate the damage being caused to the Maclaren stroller brand--for decades, a fine product long associated with British-loving yuppies and that one picture of Prince William riding in one that one time--by its current owner Farzad Rastegar's increasingly dubious-looking business practices, such as the deliberate bankrupting of Maclaren's US operations, and the transfer of the company's assets and revenues to a complex web of offshore shell companies. Oh, right, and also by the recall of basically every stroller the company sold in the US up until 2009.

But then today I looked at Mr. Corallo's firm's website. Holy smokes. He is THE brand crisis management consultant. The Republican "Master of Disaster"!

Called "a 'street-smart' Republican spin doctor" by National Journal, Mark Corallo is a veteran communicator with extensive experience in the high-pressure, high-stakes world of Washington, D.C. media affairs. Mark draws on his experience on Capitol Hill, in the Executive branch, and on the campaign trail, to advise Fortune 500 companies, leading trade associations, as well as high-profile business and political leaders.

Said Politico: "Called 'the master of disaster' by many, Corallo has been in the crisis management game since the mid-1990s.... From Sept. 11 to Karl Rove, the self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie has had a hand in almost every newsworthy piece of Republican crisis management in Washington over the past decade."

He was John Ashcroft's spokesman during the PATRIOT Act and the GWOT.

He was Karl Rove's spokesman during the Valerie Plame leak investigation.

Now, I'd think that Maclaren hiring any "master of disaster" would be a red flag for a consumer-facing company trying to tamp down a crisis, never mind a "spin doctor" who has been directly involved in spinning some of the most highly partisan and controversial politicking of the last decade.

Which, don't get me wrong. I don't want to stigmatize Maclaren as a Republican stroller. I mean, there really isn't even such a thing. It just strikes me as odd that Rastegar would turn to an expert in navigating Washington when it seems like his company's problem is just looking shady.

But. then it turns out that Corallo was also the spokesman for Blackwater, the private, North Carolina-based military/security/intelligence contractor which got in deep political trouble for shoot-em-ups and scandals in Iraq. But then he quit in 2007 because the cowboys were too renegade! But then he returned in 2009, to issue masterfully phrased non-denial denials about Blackwater's involvement in the CIA's secret torture prison network and about the company's secret payoffs to Iraqi government officials. [I especially love that last one.]

And now it all makes perfect sense. The Blackwater brand became synonymous with out-of-control private mercenaries and torture and a symbol of the vaster failures of Iraq, the GWOT, and the Bush administration, and simply switching the name of the company's major operating subsidiary from Blackwater USA to Blackwater Worldwide didn't change that.

So in 2009, when it was facing the loss of its major government contracts, Blackwater changed its name to the basically unpronounceable Xe Services. And the 7,000 acre camp in the North Carolina swamp that gave the company its name was transformed from the Blackwater Lodge to US Training Center, Inc., the private army equivalent of American Baby Products, Inc.

Clearly Farzad Rastegar has engaged Mark Corallo to save the Maclaren brand by executing a "reverse Blackwater," and tie all the company's recalls, shady bankruptcies, and fraud lawsuits around ABP's neck, and then they can head out into the Long Island Sound one night on one of Rastegar's Laser Performance sailboats, and push the company overboard without a trace.

If you think this kind of hand-waving PR bullshit is too cynical to ever really work, I'd just challenge you to tell me--without looking it up first--what Xe changed its name to six months ago? What's that, you say? You hadn't heard? I'll tell you: Academi, a name chosen, their new CEO said, because it is "boring." They are currently the State Department's largest security contractor.

Mission accomplished.

Corallo Media Strategies [corallomediastrategies]

Previously: Maclaren would like you to kindly stop mentioning their bankruptcy
Previously: Blackwater Teddy Bears

Related in so many unexpected ways, including desperately misleading name changes, massive recalls, bankruptcies, private equity shell games, and the involvement of Don Rumsfeld's spokesman: the Simplicity/SFCA Cribs of Death mess

4 Comments

I can't even begin to guess how much this costs them. What can their cost-benefit look like?

*shudder*

Who else is after them on this? Is anyone other than this site (not to minimize this site's influence) following this trail of deception all that closely. There have been a handful of stories but I don't think MacLaren has taken much of a PR hit and they still seem to be selling strollers. Why hire a spin doctor? It seems like the fallout from the legal actions would be more significant than the PR hit resulting from exposing the shell game shenanigans, while fascinating to many of us, require a greater attention span than most of the stroller buying public. If I'm MacLaren, I'm more concerned with Netto & The Amputees than public relations right now.

This was lovely. All I read was McClaren Blackwater McClaren Bush McClaren Republican McClaren torture McClaratorture McClaren Iragi prisoners McClaren.

I can't tell you how many times I wanted to do something like this after run-ins with asshole pr people. Alas, the newspaper would never print them. All hail the power of blogs! Seriously, weeping tears of joy here. Very well done.

McClaren ... assholes.

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