Gordon Ramsay’s given up his flak-managing flack Gary Farrow as part of a series of moves that see him scaling down his spending and financially restructuring his massive empire under the management of his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson.
This may come as something of a blow for Farrow in these recessionary times; his skill with crisis management has seen Ramsay through some hard times, not least the revelation of an affair with Sarah Symonds last year, but it’s the sort of thing that should come as no surprise to a seasoned publicist.
It’s the sort of move that has happened time and again, as I have described in The Fame Formula. An early example is the relationship between Harry Reichenbach and Rudolph Valentino. Reichenbach discovered Valentino, pushed him on movie executives and encouraged them to see beyond the cauliflower ear to the essential star within. Valentino, with Reichenbach’s help early on, went on to become one of the great screen presences of all time.
Eventually, a time came when Valentino began to resent that he was spending money on publicity when he – and particularly his wife – thought that his image could be managed in house. Valentino’s wife took on the role of managing the star’s career. She vetoed all the publicity work that Reichenbach, then working for Paramount, offered her and struck out alone, even though she did not know how to go about managing a star.
The audience for Monsieur Beaucaire, the first film for which Mrs Valentino handled all publicity, was 80 per cent men when previous Valentino film audiences had been comprised almost solely of lustful women. This picture proved a failure, as did the follow-up, Sainted Devils.
‘In 1923, a thousand women swarmed around the Ritz-Carlton when I walked out of it with Rudolph Valentino,’ wrote Reichenbach. ‘But ten days before he died – he was eight years older then and already wore a wig – we went to see George White’s Scandals and nobody knew he was in the theatre. In his case, his wife was an anti-alchemist changing gold to dross. She handled the selection of his stories, dominated him and the studio and inflated his ego to the breaking point.’
There’s a definite risk that Ramsay, out of reach of the man who has guided his personal life through the press and who kept at bay the potential full impact of the Sarah Symonds story, will run into trouble again. His father-in-law has kept on Sauce PR, the firm that oversees event management, brand work and building the reputation of Gordon Ramsay Holdings, but seems to have forgotten that the man is the brand and the brand the man, something that Gary Farrow knows only too well. Without Farrow’s ministering influence, the rumours that surround Ramsay might well have sunk him years ago.
If Gordon Ramsay, in the face of mounting business problems and a recession, strays again, it won’t just be a personal crisis. The whole business is tied up in his image, and if the public’s perception of that changes, as it did for Valentino, then all is easily lost. Dispensing with Farrow’s services, which have kept Gordon Ramsay’s image magnificently afloat in the face of many difficulties, could well be a saving that will end up costing Ramsay and his company much more than mere money.