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[whitespace] Spin Doctors

The Nezhat brothers are in good hands with "$400-an-hour fireman" Michael Sitrick and his public relations firm, Sitrick & Company Inc.

By Mary Spicuzza

SITRICK & COMPANY is used to high drama. After all, it normally deals with the stars. When Hollywood bad boy Christian Slater was accused of hitting his girlfriend, when major leaguer Lenny Dykstra was arrested on sexual battery charges, and when Kim Basinger was called a spoiled rich girl, the "Wizard of Spin" Sitrick and his team swept in to save the day by helping the celebrities save face.

The firm has also offered high-priced help to infamous crisis situations. They helped UC-Irvine rebuild its image after its fertility clinic director, Dr. Ricardo Asch, and his partners were accused of misusing human eggs and conducting improper research--namely taking women's eggs without consent and transferring them as embryos to other patients. The City of Riverside hired Sitrick for an image makeover after its police force shot and killed a young black woman with a hail of bullets as she slept in her locked car. And when Food Lion was featured on an ABC report about unsanitary food handling, such as repackaging fish with a new expiration date, combining expired ground beef with fresh, and coating dated chicken with barbecue sauce to be sold as gourmet food, the chain called in Sitrick to show how ABC had violated the company with hidden cameras.

The founder of the firm, Michael Sitrick, is rumored to work for $400 per hour, according to Los Angeles magazine (March 1998). He's also widely respected as a leader in public relations and as an author. His book? Spin: How to Turn the Power of the Press to Your Advantage. But he also surrounds himself with experienced talent, and made headlines when he hired former Kenneth Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly to work in Sitrick's Washington, D.C., office. Apparently Bakaly's indictment, then acquittal, on criminal charges that he made misleading statements to a judge about talking to reporters wasn't an obstacle to this spring's hire.

The website lists the company as "one of the nation's leading corporate, financial, transactional and crisis communications firms" and offers litigation support for a host of reasons, including "EPA and environmental problems and allegations" "labor issues, including sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases" and "Medicare and Medicaid fraud."

Or in the words of Sitrick, "We make problems disappear."

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From the July 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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