Daniel J. Edelman, the public relations pioneer who launched one of the world's largest firms and laid the foundation for the industry more than 60 years ago, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at a Chicago hospital, said his son and successor, Richard Edelman. He was 92.
Edelman created his namesake firm in a small Chicago office in 1952. The company now operates 63 offices in 26 countries and generated $660 million in revenue last year. Notable clients include Microsoft, Pfizer, General Electric, and Wal-Mart. Steve Barrett, editor of the trade publication PRWeek, called Edelman
"easily the biggest agency in the world."
Edelman served as founder and chairman of the firm and was active in the business until he got sick about five months ago, said Richard Edelman, who serves as the company's president and CEO. Edelman is also survived by his wife of 59 years, Ruth Ann Rozumoff Edelman, who is a member of the firm’s board of directors; his daughter Renee, who is a senior vice president there; and son John, who is managing director of Edelman’s Global Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.
Edelman was born in July 1920 in New York City and graduated from Columbia University in 1940 before earning his master's degree there at the Graduate School of Journalism the next year. He did a brief stint as a sports reporter at a newspaper in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and was then drafted into the Army during World War II. Edelman got his first taste of public relations when he worked as a member of a psychological warfare unit tasked with analyzing German propaganda.
After the war, Edelman took a night job writing news at CBS in New York and later became a publicist at Musicraft Records, where he promoted jazz singers like Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan.
By 1947, Edelman had moved to Chicago and taken a position as public relations director of Toni, a home hair care company. He's credited with organizing the first modern media tour after he had six sets of twins travel in a road show as part of Toni's "Which Twin Had The Toni?" ad campaign. Edelman eventually left to start his own company, with Toni as his first client.
Professionals in the industry who knew Edelman say he was an imaginative, ethical businessman.
"He always said, 'My legacy is my company and my family,'" Richard Edelman said. "We’re going to preserve his legacy by staying private and independent and feisty, because that's what he wanted."
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