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Friday, 21 July, 2000, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Al-Fayed recruits Clifford
Harrods boss Mohamed al-Fayed
Mohamed al-Fayed: Wants to be a British citizen
The controversial boss of Harrods, Mohamed al-Fayed, has recruited Britain's most high-profile publicist Max Clifford to polish up his image.

Mr Clifford is due to take up his new position following the departure of Mr al-Fayed's current spokesman, Laurie Mayer, at the end of this month.

It's a great challenge. It won't be boring

Max Clifford

Mr Clifford said his new role would be a "challenge" but one he was looking forward to.

The deal is understood to be worth 300,000 a year to Mr Clifford's company, Max Clifford Associates.

This will pay for Phil Hall, the former editor of the News of the World who recently joined Mr Clifford, to manage the public relations of the Egyptian tycoon.

'Match made in heaven'

It will also cover the cost of Alex Hitchen, another News of the World journalist, to become Mr al-Fayed's day-to-day press secretary.

Publicist Max Clifford
Max Clifford: New recruit
Mr Clifford, whose clients have included the jailed farmer Tony Martin and the disgraced South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje, laughed at the suggestion that the new alliance was a match made in heaven.

He said of Mr al-Fayed: "He's had a very stormy ride in the media. He's taken on the establishment and the way he did has upset a lot of people. I suppose I have too."

He said he was not daunted by Mr al-Fayed's reputation, adding: "I'm used to dealing with very powerful people and successful people so hopefully that will help.

"It's a great challenge. It won't be boring."

Positive light

For the last six months, Mr Clifford has been handling press relations for Fulham football club, which is owned by Mr al-Fayed.

One of Mr al-Fayed's greatest ambitions is to obtain British citizenship and Mr Clifford said he would do his best to cast his new client in as positive a light as possible.

Laurie Mayer, a former Sky TV presenter, has worked for Mr al-Fayed and Harrods, as director of public affairs since 1998.

He said he was quitting to pursue writing and media interests. "I have done what I can to help the company and now feel it is time to move on. I hope that Mohamed eventually gets justice."

Mr Clifford, asked why Mr al-Fayed had wanted him, said: "There's a lot of different things going on that it was felt that I and Phil should be brought into the equation. I'm obviously very fond of Laurie but he's decided to do other things."

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