Edelman China CEO out of Beijing office for a week 'helping authorities'

The CEO of PR giant Edelman's China holding company has been asked to "cooperate" with Chinese authorities leading an investigation, a top executive said Wednesday.

Steven Cao: Not seen for a week

Steven Cao, CEO of the Daniel J. Edelman China Group, has not reported to work for over a week, AdAge reported.

David Brain, president and CEO of Edelman's Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa business said authorities visited one of the company's subsidiaries in Beijing on July 24 to request help with the probe.

The Chinese authorities have not given any indication of what exactly they are investigating or made any mention of Cao himself

In China, the phrase Edelman used -- "cooperating with authorities" -- can suggest officials are questioning or holding someone, said AdAge, adding, “People can be held at length without ever being formally arrested.”

One possibility according to the report: investigators wanted to speak to Cao about his ties to a famous TV news anchor who was detained by prosecutors in mid-July.

The anchor, Rui Chenggang, founded a PR company with Cao over a decade ago. In 2007, Edelman bought a majority stake in that firm, Pegasus Communications.

TV anchor Rui's detention, said AdAge, is widely assumed to be part of a larger probe into allegations of corruption at his broadcaster, state network CCTV.

Brain is quoted, “It is our understanding that Steven Cao is cooperating with authorities on the investigation. We have not been in contact with Steven, so we don't have any further information about Steven's whereabouts."

For now, senior China management is overseeing operations at the company, Brain said, and business in the country is running as usual. Edelman employs more than 300 people across its four brands in China.

Cao was named CEO of the China holding company in October 2012. He did not respond to emails or calls to his mobile phone, said Adage.

On Friday, Pegasus Communications put out a statement saying that Chinese authorities had paid a visit to its Beijing office.

That statement said the company was cooperating in the investigation and also carrying out its own internal probe, but it did not mentions Cao's whereabouts.

China is waging a massive crackdown on corruption at all levels, sad AdAge-- this week, the country launched an investigation into Zhou Yongkang, China's once-powerful former security chief suspected “of serious disciplinary violation."

Several employees of CCTV have been detained in the anti-corruption crackdown, Chinese state media have reported.

he most high-profile is Rui, a business-news anchor famous for his nationalistic stance on issues, “and his habit of directing the spotlight away from his interviewees and onto himself,” according to AdAge.

Officials have never explained his detention but Chinese media have suggested his past ties to Edelman were a conflict of interest.

Edelman has said it is carrying out a fact-finding mission into Pegasus' past.

Edelman is the world's largest independently owned public relations firm.

Founded in Chicago in 1952, and named after Daniel Edelman it is currently run by his son Richard Edelman.Today the company has revenues of over $600 million annually, and employs 4,200 people with co-headquarters in New York City and Chicago.

The firm opened offices in London, Canada, Asia and Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the 1990s, offices were opened in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, South Korea, China, and Belgium.

In 1995, Edelman was the first public relations firm to have a website and began web-based projects for its clients.In January 2013, the firm launched The Daniel J. Edelman China Group.

Eighty-two percent of the company is owned by the Edelman family, while 18 percent is owned by executives.

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