Allan Mayer, a member of American Apparel’s board of directors, helped oust Dov Charney from the company a month ago. Charney, of course, founded American Apparel and was its chairman, chief executive officer, president, public face (and oh, so much more). But who is Allan Mayer?
Mayer first met Charney in 2004, after the publication of the now notorious article in Jane magazine—the one where Charney masturbated in front of the reporter, with her consent and while talking about business. Mayer was a crisis manager; Charney, a perennial candidate for crisis management. After American Apparel went public in 2007, Charney invited Mayer to join the board. He’s now co-chairman and one of only two board members to keep their seats after a deal with hedge fund Standard General on July 9 to rescue the company.
Mayer wrote and edited for Newsweek, founded Buzz magazine, wrote two books, and worked in book publishing before getting into the damage control business in 1997. That’s when he began to work with Michael Sitrick, a master of spin and a powerful, inevitable presence in Los Angeles and beyond. In 1998, Mayer and Sitrick wrote a book called Spin: How to Turn the Power of the Press to Your Advantage.
Mayer helped Sony Pictures deal with protests against The Da Vinci Code and aided Universal Pictures in the studio’s response to threatened boycotts against the movie Munich. He also advised Halle Berry after her hit-and-run accident, and Rush Limbaugh after his addiction to prescription painkillers became public. He worked with Britney Spears during her many crises, and with Tom Cruise and Eminem, too.
“The celebrity scandals get the headlines,” Mayer says. “But they’re the equivalent of one-night stands. You get the client out of trouble, and you move on. It’s much more interesting and fun to have long-term relationships, to help people build something.” That, he says, is mostly what he’s doing now as head of the strategic communications division of 42West, a rival of Sitrick’s.
Strategic communications? “For years, I’ve been looking for an unpretentious way to describe what I do,” Mayer says. “Strategic communications counsel is the best I could come up with. A lot of my clients think of me as a consigliere. In the old days, I would have been called a fixer.”
Among his current clients are Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. “The world learned about them in a very odd way, through Aaron Sorkin’s conception of them,” Mayer says. “They’re very smart entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, because of the movie [The Social Network], they got entangled in the world of the tabloids and gossip sites, and it’s been extremely difficult to extricate themselves from all that. I’m helping them.” The Winklevosses’ latest venture: an exchange-traded fund for the virtual currency Bitcoin.
In 2010, Mayer and Sitrick were involved in a public-relations dispute of their own. Mayer joined a lawsuit that claimed Sitrick had manipulated an employee stock ownership plan before the sale of his company. Mayer says the lawsuit “was settled on satisfactory, confidential terms.”
No hard feelings, apparently: When it came time to hire a crisis manager for American Apparel last month, Mayer turned to Sitrick.