It was reported that Clifford, who was serving an eight-year prison sentence for eight counts of indecent assault that he was convicted of in 2014, first collapsed on Friday (8 December) and died of cardiac arrest today (10 December), aged 74. He had a history of heart issues.
Talking to The Drum, PRCA director general and chief executive of ICCO, Francis Ingham, offered his sympathy to Clifford’s family upon hearing the news of his death, but said that he struggled to offer anything ‘nice’ to say about the man himself.
“He did our industry a disservice by pretending to be part of it," stated Ingham. "I note that most media outlets are describing him today as having been a publicist. That is finally an accurate description of his career."
Clifford was as famous as many of his own clients for his television appearances while attempting to protect their reputations. Clients are said to have included Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Jade Goody and Katie Price, as well as those famously selling ‘kiss and tell’ stories to the British tabloids.
“His passing closes a chapter in which the media frequently conflated publicity with professional public relations. We will continue to champion professionalism and ethics, which will evolve both the practice of PR, and how it is perceived,” commented Jason MacKenzie FCIPR, founder of Chart PR and CIPR President.
Clifford also admitted while giving evidence during the Leveson Inquiry into media practices that he was behind the fabrication of the famous headline ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’, which was splashed by The Sun in 1986.
PR expert Mark Borkowski said: “Max was an anomaly. Not really a PR operator – more a dark alchemist – part agent, part deal-broker, a news agency with a twist to exploit the voracious news agenda.
"[He was] the PR man who became the story, an enigmatic myth squeezing the last drop from every hapless wannabe, the man who developed an immunity to the toxic fallout, the polluted values of an intense tabloid reality age. Many were crushed by the dreams they searched, and sadly wished for. [He was] a dark genie who shaped a toxic fame which few could cope with. We will never see his like again.”