Edelman, the public relations firm handling the campaign of activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management against Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), the multi-level marketing company selling nutritional and weight management products, which he accused as a pyramid scheme, has hired former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as an adviser.
Villaraigosa recently joined the multi-level marketing company
Ackman as well as many other people following the controversy surrounding Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) were surprised by the report given the fact that Villaraigosa recently joined the multi-level marketing company as senior adviser.
The first question that came into the minds of people following Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) was, “Does Villaraigosa has conflict of interest working as an adviser for both companies?”
Villaraigosa said, “There’s absolutely no conflict. This is something I discussed with both parties. Edelman is an organization with a global footprint, as is Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). I’m not working in any way that would create a conflict.”
Villaraigosa will serve as an independent consultant
Lisa Page, spokesperson for Edelman, explained that Villaraigosa will serve as an independent consultant in his role as senior adviser for the PR firm. She emphasized that the former Mayor will not be involved in any business that will create conflicts between clients of the firm and his professional activities elsewhere. Page pointed out that Edelman takes conflicts of interest “extremely seriously.”
In an e-mail sent to the Los Angeles Times, Kati Burke, global public affairs chairperson of Edelman, said, “We’ve long been admirers of [Villaraigosa’s] straight forward, common sense approach, and his deep, practical understanding of the nexus of business and public policy will be incredibly valuable to a wide range of current and future Edelman clients.”
Burke pointed out that Villaraigosa will not be working on an specific client or project for Edelman. According to her, the firm works on different issues such as energy, health care, technology and transportation. She said the former mayor has experience on those issues and other public policy issues that are beneficial to the firm’s clients.
Villaraigosa served as the mayor of Los Angeles
Villaraigosa has 20 years’ experience in public service. According to him, he “learned a little bit about policy” and he can help entities that are trying to navigate the political landscape given his experience on state and federal issues.
Villaraigosa served as the mayor of Los Angeles for eight years. Prior to holding that position, he was a member of the Los Angeles City Council and California State Assembly. He was the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as the chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.