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PR genius and family business leader Dan Edelman dies

Dan Edelman, family business founder and a giant of the public relations industry, died of heart failure on 15 January at the age of 92.
PR genius and family business leader Dan Edelman dies

Dan Edelman, family business founder and a giant of the public relations industry, died of heart failure on 15 January at the age of 92.

Over the last 60 years, Edelman turned his Chicago-based PR firm into an international corporation with 4,600 employees in 66 cities and revenues of $637 million (€374 million) in fiscal 2012.

Although he officially retired in 1996, Edelman never managed to quit the family business, with his son Richard, president and chief executive of the Edelman PR firm, telling the Chicago Tribune: "He never retired; he died with his boots on." Edelman was working on pitches as recently as last week from his hospital bed.

Born to a family of five in New York in the 1920s, Edelman earned a masters in journalism from the University of Columbia in 1940 and worked a brief stint as a reporter in Poughkeepsie.

After being drafted in 1942 to serve in World War II, Edelman was assigned to a specialist psychological warfare unit, the 5th Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company. He was tasked with analysing German propaganda to eek out vital information for the Allies, who would then distribute their own counter-propaganda based on these findings.

This unorthodox training in public relations served him well, and after the war he worked in the PR department of a couple of companies before founding Edelman in 1952. Under his watch, the firm went on to manage PR campaigns for companies such as KFC, Apple and Sara Lee.

The business remains firmly in family hands, with Edelman's three children all holding senior management roles. But despite his faith in his children, Edelman's greatest collaborator was his wife or 59 years, Ruth. The couple were involved in many charitable organisation, including the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, now known as GBCHealth, and Save the Children.

He is survived by Ruth, his children and three granddaughters.

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