Max Clifford

Max Clifford
Max Clifford

Clifford at the Institute of Fundraising National Convention in 2011
Born Maxwell Frank Clifford
6 April 1943 (1943-04-06) (age 68)
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England
Occupation Publicist
Years active 1970–present
Spouse Elizabeth Porter (m. 1967–2003) «start: (1967-06-03)–end+1: (2003-03-09)»"Marriage: Elizabeth Porter to Max Clifford" Location: (linkback:// (her death); 1 child
Jo Westwood (m. 2010–present) «start: (2010-04-03)»"Marriage: Jo Westwood to Max Clifford" Location: (linkback://

Maxwell Frank Clifford (born 6 April 1943) is an English publicist, considered the highest-profile and best-known publicist in the United Kingdom.[1] Although his client range is varied, he is a controversial figure for often representing unpopular clients (such as those accused or convicted of crimes) and acting as an agent to people selling "kiss-and-tell" stories to tabloid newspapers.

A traditional Labour supporter, Clifford openly vowed to bring down the government of John Major because he personally felt that the National Health Service was mismanaged, having dealt with the NHS in attempting to obtain treatment for his daughter, who has juvenile idiopathic arthritis. While he is primarily known for helping to bring damaging allegations to light, he insists that today most of his work is concerned with concealment of stories.[citation needed]



Early life

Maxwell Frank Clifford was born in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey in 1943.[2][3] His parents were Frank Clifford, an electrician, and Lilian (née Boffee).[3] Born into a poor family, Clifford was the youngest of four children[4] (eldest sister, two brothers) by nearly 10 years to his next sibling. The family survived their father's regular bouts of unemployment, gambling and alcoholism through handouts from their grandmother and latterly from his sister's employment as PA to the London Vice President of Morgan Guarantee Trust Bank.[2]

Leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, and after being sacked within four months of his first job at Ely's department store in Wimbledon, Clifford's brother Bernard used his print union connections to gain Clifford a job as editorial assistant on the Eagle comic. When the publication moved premises, Clifford took redundancy and bought his first house and gained work with the South London Press company to train as a journalist.[2]

Early work as a publicist

After working in newspapers for a few years, writing an occasional record/music column and running a disco, Clifford replied to an advertisement and joined as the second member of the EMI press office in 1962,[4] under Chief Press Officer Syd Gillingham. As the youngest and the only trained journalist in a team of four, Clifford claims he was given the job of promoting an unknown and unwanted group called The Beatles early in their career, including of their first tour of the United States.[2]

After Gillingham left EMI, he asked Clifford to join him at Chris Hutchins' PR agency.[2] Among the artists they represented were Paul and Barry Ryan, who introduced Clifford to their stepfather, impresario Harold Davidson who handled the UK affairs of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.[2]

In 1970 aged 27, and after Gillingham retired, Clifford left Hutchins and started his own agency named Max Clifford Associates.[2] Based in the offices of Joe Cocker's manager, he started off by representing Sinatra, Cocker, Paul and Barry Ryan, Don Partridge, and Marvin Gaye. He later also represented Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando.[2]

Freddie Starr

The famous headline as it appeared in The Sun.

On 13 March 1986, The Sun carried as its main headline: "FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER" - one of the most famous British tabloid newspaper headlines of all time. According to the story invented by Clifford, Starr had been staying at the home of Vince McCaffrey (who was co-writing Starr's biography at the time), and his 23-year-old girlfriend Lea La Salle in Birchwood, Warrington, Cheshire when the incident took place. Starr was alleged to have returned home from a performance at a Manchester nightclub in the small hours of the morning and demanded that La Salle make him a sandwich. When she refused, he went into the kitchen and put her pet hamster, 'Supersonic', between two slices of bread and proceeded to eat it.[2]

Clifford counter spun the story the next day, when he flew with a journalist from The Sun to Starr's home in Waltham St Lawrence, Berkshire with another hamster the newspaper had called Sandwich, which was photographed with claimed vegetarian Starr. Starr now admits in interviews that this story was untrue, but brought him much-needed publicity for his forthcoming tour.[2]

The story was one of the first examples where, rather than PR agents managing what went into the media or confirming a journalist's storyline, Clifford created a fast-selling story which he sold to the media, and its counter line follow-up. As a result, it brought Clifford to the British public's attention.[2] Clifford and Starr ended their connection shortly afterwards, and Clifford later used background material to fuel the media storylines around Starr's later revelations during his divorce of wife battering, alcoholism, and drug taking.[2]

Pamella Bordes

Clifford was approached by a friendly madam of a brothel who had provided Clifford's client with various services, worried about publicity from an investigative reporter from the News of the World. Clifford asked the madam to reveal details of her girls and clients, and found that one prostitute, Pamella Bordes, was simultaneously dating: Andrew Neil (then editor of The Sunday Times); Donald Trelford (then editor of The Observer); Conservative minister for sport Colin Moynihan and billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.[5][6][7] Clifford rang News of the World editor Patsy Chapman and drip-fed her the story of Bordes through the investigative reporter she was using on the madam. The story, published in March 1989 under the headline "CALL GIRL WORKS IN COMMONS", created a near Christine Keeler-like image for Bordes when it went to press, since it was discovered she had a House of Commons security pass arranged by MPs David Shaw and Henry Bellingham. Clifford claims Bordes was never his client, and that he earned his fee for "writing" the story, which ultimately served the purpose of avoiding the madam any adverse publicity or court case.[2]

Mohamed Fayed

The controversial then boss of Harrods Mohamed Fayed retained Max Clifford Associates in July 2000 to 'polish up' his image.[8] After having paid the politician Neil Hamilton to ask questions in the House of Commons in the now notorious 'cash-for-questions' scandal, Fayed and Hamilton became high profile enemies when the latter revealed the fact during a court case. Shortly after Fayed retained Clifford, Hamilton and his wife Christine were both arrested on rape charges which were later found to be false. Clifford subsequently paid the Hamiltons an undisclosed sum in damages on behalf of the third party accuser.[9]

Fabricated rape claims

In 2005 Clifford paid an undisclosed sum in libel damages to Neil Hamilton after he had represented Nadine Milroy-Sloan, who was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice after fabricating rape allegations against Hamilton. Clifford did not face any criminal charges over the case. [10] However, the judge in the case pointed out that Clifford had offered the offender £80,000 in connection with the claims [11]


Clifford has since represented various clients, including: David Copperfield; Mohamed Al-Fayed; Simon Cowell; brain-damaged boxer Michael Watson; Liverpool left-wing politician Derek Hatton, for whom Clifford created an affair in order to change his image;[2] former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson; Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, who was imprisoned for fatally shooting a burglar; Rebecca Loos, when she negotiated with the press about her alleged affair with England football captain David Beckham;[2] Cheryl Cole; Celebrity Big Brother 2007 winner Shilpa Shetty; and Jade Goody, in the period of the reality star's cervical cancer and death.

Clifford represents Gillian McKeith, saying of her doctorate in nutrition potentially being misconstrued as a medical degree by viewers of her advertisements: "personally, I wish it had never been mentioned. She never needed it, and it's done nothing but cause her embarrassment."[12]

Reporter Louis Theroux followed Clifford in the BBC Two 2002 programme When Louis Met... Max Clifford. During filming, it appeared that Clifford was trying to set up Theroux during a PR stunt in Sainsbury's. It backfired after Clifford was heard on his microphone lying, unaware it was still on. Clifford is regarded as being one of the shrewdest practitioners of his trade, and in July 2005 he told reporters that he would not represent Michael Jackson after he was found innocent of child abuse charges, saying: "It would be the hardest job in PR after [representing] Saddam Hussein".[13]

Gay clients

Clifford has given assistance to clients who wish to conceal their sexual orientation from the public. Clifford claimed that he has been approached twice by major football clubs to help make players present a "straight" image.[14] In an interview with Pink News reported on 5 August 2009, Clifford said that if a gay football player came out, his career would be over: “To my knowledge there is only one top-flight professional gay footballer who came out - Justin Fashanu. He ended up committing suicide. I have been advising a top premiership star who is bisexual. If it came out that he had gay tendencies, his career would be over in two minutes. Should it be? No, but if you go on the terraces and hear the way fans are, and also, that kind of general attitude that goes with football, it’s almost like going back to the dark ages.”[15] Clifford has said so far none of his clients have been outed.[2]

In December 2009, he told The Independent on Sunday that he has represented two high-profile gay Premier League footballers in the past five years and has advised them to stay in the closet because football "remains in the dark ages, steeped in homophobia".[16]

The Major government

In light of Clifford's view of the deteriorating state of the NHS, and the moral difference with members of the John Major government, Clifford worked to expose stories to help the Labour Party in to power. Although not instrumental in exposing David Mellor's affair with Antonia de Sancha, Clifford's battle in representing de Sancha against the contrived post-spin story of the "family man Mellor" handled by counter PR Tim Bell ultimately derailed Major's 'Back to Basics' agenda. Clifford invented the story which claimed Mellor made love in Chelsea F.C. football kit, though he was blocked from mentioning it in his memoirs.[17] Clifford also helped to expose Jeffrey Archer's perjury in the 1980s during his candidacy for the post of Mayor of London.[2]

In 2005, Clifford paid damages to settle defamation proceedings brought by Neil and Christine Hamilton after he represented a woman who was later found to have falsely accused the Hamiltons of sexual assault.[9]

The Blair government

Although a supporter of the Labour party, Clifford's approach in dealing with the Blair government was similar to that which he employed with Major's preceding Conservative government. The first instance of this was the story of Welsh Assembly leader Ron Davies. Then Clifford was accused by David Blunkett at the beginning of November 2005 of having a role in his second resignation. This derived from claims made on behalf of a much younger woman, who had become involved with Blunkett, over Blunkett's business interests, which were published in The Times. Later that week Clifford was accused of arranging a distraction from the assault made by his friend Rebekah Wade on her husband, EastEnders actor Ross Kemp, via the "coincidence" of the other "Mitchell brother", Steve McFadden being in a similar incident with an ex-partner. Clifford denied all responsibility.

On 26 April 2006, Clifford represented John Prescott's diary secretary Tracey Temple, in selling her story for "an awful lot more" than £100,000 to the Mail on Sunday. The story was about the two year affair between Prescott and Temple which took place between 2002 and 2004.[18]

On 4 May 2006, Clifford announced his intention to expose politicians who fail to abide by the standards expected of them in public office. He called his team of undercover investigators "a dedicated and loyal bunch".[2]

Unpaid work and death threats

Clifford sometimes works for no payment. A contestant on the BBC gameshow The Weakest Link who was a prostitute turned to Clifford for help with tabloid harassment: he did not charge her because he claimed he felt sorry for her. He also worked without fee for Martyn and Kay Tott, who tried to get £3m from Camelot on the winning lottery ticket they bought and mislaid.[2]

Clifford has received death threats demanding that he sever links with the five men who were suspected of the killing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. He says he has never represented them, but had merely put them in touch with ITV interviewer Martin Bashir. He also received death threats when he represented O.J. Simpson during his trial.[2]

Jade Goody

He has recently worked as a publicist for Jade Goody. The media publicising the dangers of cervical cancer after Goody's diagnosis with the disease is credited with improving the uptake of cervical smears in the UK.[19]

Carter Ruck and 'Starsuckers'

On 23 October 2009, the makers of the documentary film Starsuckers reported that they had received an email from the law firm Carter Ruck, acting on behalf of Clifford and threatening them with an injunction over their film.[20]

Personal life

Clifford married Elizabeth Louise Porter at St Barnabas Church in Southfields, London on 3 June 1967. Elizabeth died in Sutton, Greater London[21] on 8 March 2003, nine months after being diagnosed with lung cancer; the couple had been together for 40 years.[22] Their only child, daughter Louise (born 1 June 1971), has lived with juvenile idiopathic arthritis since childhood. They live in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.[citation needed]

On 4 April 2010, Clifford married his former PA Jo Westwood; guests included Des O'Connor, Bobby Davro and Theo Paphitis.[23]

On 17 April 2008, Clifford announced on ITV1's This Morning show that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer six months previously. After treatment, his cancer went into remission 12 months later.[24]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Clifford ran and took part in discreet weekly adult birthday parties for his friends and clients in South London.[25] This brought him into contact with various madams and prostitutes, a connection which still serves him well in his business to satisfy the often bizarre needs of his clients, as well as an early warning system of interesting behaviour of various persons.[2]

A life-long fan of Jaguar cars, after owning a Bentley Arnage T,[26] he now drives a Rolls-Royce Ghost.[citation needed]


Clifford says what motivates him is much more than just money - he says he cannot stand hypocrisy in public life, and reserves a particular disgust for lying politicians, and watched with growing anger what he thought happened to the health service over the past 20 years.[2] For this reason, and because of his working class background, Clifford is a traditional Labour supporter who worked to bring down the government of Major because he felt that the National Health Service was being mismanaged.[2]

Charity works

Clifford developed epilepsy at the age of 46 as a result of early life brain scarring[27] and was banned from driving for 12 months as a result. He does a considerable amount of fund-raising and media work for a children's hospice at the Royal Marsden Hospital of which he is a patron. He also handled the publicity for the Daniels family and helped set up the Rhys Daniels Trust from resultant media fees to combat Batten's Disease.[2] Clifford is also a patron of the Chertsey, Surrey based radio station Hospital Radio Wey. As of Summer 2010 he is the Vice President of Young Epilepsy.

Tips for fame

In a show for Fame TV in December 2006, Clifford gave his tips on gaining fame in the world today as:[28]

  1. Appear on a reality series
  2. Enter a talent contest
  3. Be abysmal on a talent show
  4. Gain fame by association
  5. Date a celebrity
  6. Flaunt your body
  7. Date a Royal Family member
  8. Make a home sex video
  9. Be a success on MySpace
  10. Be in the right place at the right time


  1. ^ "'I could probably help you become the next Paxman'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x 'Max Clifford: read all about it! Max Clifford and Angela Levine, Virgin Books (ISBN 1-85227-237-6)
  3. ^ a b Barratt, Nick (27 October 2007). "Family Detective - Max Clifford". Daily Telegraph. 
  4. ^ a b Laura Barton "'Life has changed - it's nastier now'", The Guardian, 28 April 2008. Retrieved on 26 March 2009.
  5. ^ Summerskill, Bill. "Paper tiger", The Observer, 28 July 2002. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
  6. ^ Roy, Amit. "A trip down memory lane", The Telegraph, 9 October 2005. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
  7. ^ "Billionaire arms dealer breaks his silence over claims he hired Heather Mills as escort", ThisisLondon, 11 November 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
  8. ^ Fayed recruits Clifford. "Fayed Recuits Clifford".
  9. ^ a b Day, Julia (2 February 2005). "Clifford pays out over Hamiltons slur". The Guardian (London).,12123,1403930,00.html. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Gibson, Owen (14 February 2007). "TV dietician to stop using title Dr in adverts". London: The Guardian.,,2010974,00.html. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  13. ^ US fans shun Michael Jackson CD
  14. ^ "Why are there no openly gay footballers?". BBC News. 11 November 2005. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Tippetts, Adrian (2009-08-05). "EXCLUSIVE - PR guru Max Clifford: 'If a gay footballer comes out, his career is over'". Pink News. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  16. ^ Harris, Nick (2009-12-20). "Two top gay footballers stay in closet". London: The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  17. ^ Guy Adams "Pandora: 'Sun' shines on Chelsea fan Mellor", The Independent, 26 April 2006, as reproduced on the Find Articles website. Retrieved on 26 March 2009.
  18. ^ Prescott angry at lover's claims
  19. ^ Lyall, Sarah (23 March 2009). "Jade Goody, British Reality Television Star, Dies at 27". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  20. ^ Posted by Starsuckers (2009-10-23). "Starsuckers: We've been Carter F*cked". Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  21. ^ Births and Deaths England and Wales 1837-2006
  22. ^ "Max Clifford's wife dies 2008-04-07"
  23. ^ "Max Clifford weds in low-key ceremony". April 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  24. ^ "Max Clifford: If I hadn't had a simple blood test, I'd be dying of prostate cancer now". Daily Mail. December 2, 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  25. ^ Carole Cadwalladr "Circus Maximus", Observer magazine, 23 July 2006. Retrieved on 26 March 2009.
  26. ^ Car Cruzin | Men And Motors | PROGRAMMES
  27. ^ Media Medium: Max Clifford
  28. ^ "Max Clifford offers guide to fame". BBC News. 11 December 2006. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 

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