Spin doctor goes from tobacco to Hotchin

By Kathryn Powley

Mark Hotchin and Carrick Graham arrive at TVNZ for the Close Up interview. Photo / NZ Herald
Mark Hotchin and Carrick Graham arrive at TVNZ for the Close Up interview. Photo / NZ Herald

When disgraced Hanover boss Mark Hotchin decided it was time to try restoring his tattered reputation, he turned to Carrick Graham.

The son of former National Cabinet Minister Sir Douglas Graham, the PR man was once spokesman for British American Tobacco. He now runs Facilitate Communications, which promises to "help defend and enhance your reputation and corporate image".

Graham confirmed he'd helped set up interviews for Hotchin last week, including one on TVNZ's Close Up, but was reluctant to talk about himself.

"It's not about me, it's about the clients. I don't disclose who my clients are, I don't talk about my clients. All I've done is help Mark with setting up some of the media interviews this week. I really don't want a story printed about me."

Graham said he saw his role as facilitating the airing of "both sides of the story".

"If there is one side that is constantly being articulated in the media, there is always somebody pushing an agenda somewhere, and the balance of the debate is pretty much skewed. I'd like to think that we can help people rebalance that agenda in public debate."

In his time at British American Tobacco, where he was corporate and regulatory affairs manager, Graham spoke out against anti-smoking groups, or "zealots" as he labelled them, and opposed legislation aimed at reducing smoking.

He once called such efforts an "extreme case of nanny state and social engineering".

He was named in Nicky Hager's book The Hollow Men as a link between British American Tobacco and the National Party, after booking two tables for the company at a party fundraiser.

Although not hiding his past, he reminded the Herald on Sunday: "That job was six years ago."

He left to start his own PR company and in 2007 was formally recognised at the Public Relations Industry Awards for making a significant contribution to the industry. He was also campaign manager for unsuccessful Auckland Council candidate Tenby Powell last year.

Graham first made headlines in 1994, aged 23, when he crashed his father's ministerial car in Auckland Domain. Last month he and his two children - aged 8 and 10 - had to abandon their Range Rover and 5.5m boat between Tairua and Thames when they caught fire.

He told the Herald: "I deal in crisis management, and it is somewhat ironic that it involved me."

- Herald on Sunday

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