Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Profile: Max Clifford

Max Clifford and reporters
Max Clifford is the UK's best known PR man

Publicity agent Max Clifford was at the centre of the media storm surrounding Jade Goody's deteriorating health.

The public relations veteran has made a career of taking on sensational stories, but even he has been shocked by this very personal tragedy.

"It's unique," he told the BBC after Goody's wedding. "It's one of those things that is largely or virtually entirely media led. I've never phoned anybody."

As Goody's spokesperson, Clifford, 65, fielded enquiries about her deteriorating condition with remarkably frank answers.

He brokered a deal with Living to make a series of television programmes about the reality TV star after her cancer diagnosis. And he secured 700,000 from OK! magazine for picture rights to Goody's marriage to Jack Tweed.

But he found it increasingly difficult to act as her spokesperson as she approached death.

Speaking before her death, he told Talksport radio: "My attitude to Jade in recent times is, 'Don't you think you've got the message out there?'

"'The money that you wanted for the boys we've done, we've made, it's in place, the money is assured.'

"Jade likes and enjoys the media spotlight. You have to marry all of these things. But if she continues to be in the kind of pain and condition she is in, then my advice increasingly will be, 'Don't you think enough is enough?'"

'Ate my hamster'

Maxwell Frank Clifford left school at 15 with no qualifications. After being sacked from his first job as a shop assistant he trained as a journalist.

OJ Simpson and Max Clifford
OJ Simpson (above)
Mohamed Al Fayed
David Copperfield
Kerry Katona
Simon Cowell
Shilpa Shetty

He quickly moved on to working in press relations, beginning at EMI where he was involved in the campaign to launch The Beatles.

At the age of 27 he started his own company, Max Clifford Associates, looking after UK press for big names like Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali.

But it was a far lower-key performer who brought Clifford into the public eye. Comedian Freddie Starr was looking to drum up coverage for a forthcoming tour.

Clifford invented a story about Starr making a rodent sandwich after a late night gig. It spawned the notorious headline "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" in The Sun.

The publicity agent went on to handle numerous kiss-and-tell stories including the 1989 case of Pamella Bordes, who had been dating an arms dealer, a Conservative MP and a newspaper editor at the same time.

'Poacher and gamekeeper'

High-profile clients came to him because of his excellent connections in the tabloid press - and journalists turned to Clifford to provide stories.

He was behind many of the tabloid scoops of the following decade. In one month alone in 1999 he brokered three stories which dominated headlines - Lord Archer's perjury, Cherie Blair's pregnancy and sexual allegations against Gary Glitter.

He likes to be at the centre of things. In February, with the Goody media frenzy at its height, he agreed to look after the interests of baby-faced teenage father Alfie Patten and his family.

Clifford usually manages to work on both sides of the fence, protecting his clients' interests while making sure the press get the sensational lines they demand.

His own website, which solicits stories from the public, says Clifford is "often poacher and gamekeeper at the same time".

Death threats

He admits he will lie to the media if he chooses and says much of his role now is stopping information about his clients getting into the public eye - giving him leverage for future deals.

Faria Alam and Max Clifford
1992: Antonia de Sancha, who had an affair with Cabinet minister David Mellor
1998: Broke the story of Clapham Common attack on Cabinet minister Ron Davies
1999: Revealed Lord's Archer perjury
1999: Tipped off press about Cherie Blair's pregnancy
1999: Took photos of Gary Glitter with underage girls to the media
2004: Rebecca Loos, who was alleged to have had an affair with David Beckham
2004: Former FA secretary Faria Alam
2004: Elizabeth Winkfield, 86-year-old council tax refusenik
2006: Tracy Temple, who had an affair with John Prescott

He told the Guardian the day before Jade Goody's wedding: "Sometimes a story that was so important to stop five years ago isn't now.

"It's changed. You can suddenly reveal that happened, so you, the journalist, have got a much bigger story."

The job is not without its dangers. He received death threats over his dealings with OJ Simpson and the five men who were suspected of the killing of Stephen Lawrence.

Clifford has always maintained he had not represented the Lawrence suspects, but simply put them in touch with TV journalist Martin Bashir.

Sometimes, though, he has been on the wrong side of a story.

He paid damages for defamation to Neil and Christine Hamilton after a client falsely accused them of sexual harassment.

Charity work

Within the industry he is known to have his own set of firm but idiosyncratic principles and he identifies himself as a socialist.

He will sometimes take on cases for free. He helped two National Lottery players after they mislaid their winning ticket and lost out on a 3 million prize.

His experience of bringing up his disabled daughter, Louise, has made him critical of successive governments' health policies - and keen to expose political hypocrisy.

But he says he has held back on more than 30 stories about politicians because he could not see any wrong-doing.

In 2007, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But he did not speak about his condition until he had undergone treatment.

He is a patron of the Royal Marsden Hospital, where Jade Goody received treatment, and has handled its media work for free.

Clifford's relationship with Goody began in March 2008, as she prepared to take part in the Indian version of Big Brother, hoping to repair her reputation after her disastrous stay in the UK's Celebrity Big Brother house.

Goody had been accused of racially abusing fellow housemate Shilpa Shetty - who, during the resulting furore, was represented by Clifford.

The news of Jade's cancer diagnosis arrived during her stay in the Indian Big Brother house and Clifford has handled every aspect of the story since.

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