Industry pioneer Daniel J. Edelman passes away at 92

CHICAGO: Daniel J. Edelman, who founded an agency that would go on to become the PR industry's biggest, died Tuesday at age 92 of heart failure.

CHICAGO: Daniel J. Edelman, who founded an agency that would go on to become the PR industry's biggest, died Tuesday at age 92 of heart failure.

Edelman, who remained the eponymous agency's chairman late into his life, founded Edelman in 1952 in Chicago. He previously worked as a reporter in Poughkeepsie, NY, before he was drafted into World War II. Edelman also worked as a newswriter for CBS and as PR director for hair products-maker the Toni Company before founding his own agency. He retired as CEO in 1996.

In World War II, Edelman was introduced to PR while in the intelligence unit of the US Army's 100th Infantry Division. He started a daily newspaper for fellow soldiers, and was assigned to the Fifth Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company, a psychological warfare unit. 

"I think the most important thing I learned from him was his values. He always worked harder than other people. He was also committed to giving the client creativity and excellent values,” his son and successor Richard Edelman said Tuesday. “I really do think that he's the father of marketing PR…It's a rare privilege to have someone as a father and to work with him for 34 years.” 

Richard Edelman also recalled his father's business ethics and ambition.

“His ethics – that was what he was about. I remember some client from a country came in and asked for some kind of kickback for a contract and my father kicked him out of the office and said, ‘Get out of here. I never want to see you again. It's a disgrace,'” he said. “He had great ambition and it wasn't about the money, interestingly. He never had more than one car, and he drove it until the odometer stopped. He's decent.”

During his time at Toni, Daniel Edelman was credited for creating a groundbreaking media tour to promote the company's beauty kit, utilizing the then-nascent medium of TV in the process.

The firm's early clients included the Toni Company, Sara Lee, Brunswick Bowling, Paper Mate, and ReaLemon. It opened offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Washington in the 1960s as it diversified its client base from consumer marketing into healthcare, public affairs, technology, and crisis management. Long-term clients have included Heinz, Butterball, Microsoft, and Samsung.

The firm's revenue totalled more than $600 million in 2011, not including sister agency Zeno Group. Its current clients include Microsoft, Pfizer, General Electric, Walmart, Abbott Laboratories, Samsung, Royal Dutch Shell, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever. Daniel J. Edelman Inc. also includes subsidiaries Blue, Edelman Berland, Ruth, DJE Science, Matter, First&42nd, and Edelman Consulting.

Edelman, who was born in New York City in 1920, is survived by his wife, Ruth; a daughter, Renee; sons Richard and John; and granddaughters Margot, Tory, and Amanda. Richard Edelman is the eponymous firm's global chief executive, while Renee Edelman is an SVP, and John Edelman is MD of its global engagement and CSR initiative.

Memorial services will be held at 11:45 am on Wednesday in New York at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th St., followed by burial services at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, NY. The family will sit shiva afterwards.

On Friday, a memorial service will be held in Chicago at Temple Sinai, 15 W. Delaware Pl., at 11 am. It will be followed by a shiva at the Casino Club, 195 E. Delaware Place.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in the name of Daniel J. Edelman to the Lyric Opera in Chicago, the Arthur Page Society, or the Columbia School of Journalism. 

This article was updated on January 15 with information about memorial services. It was also updated to reflect Daniel Edelman's correct age. He was 92.

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