PR Bigwigs Clash Over New York Times ‘American Pharoah’ Story

Story pits Hiltzik Strategies against 5WPR.

ICYMI, The New York Times ran a fascinating story yesterday about investor and racing fanatic Ahmed Zayat, his horse American Pharoah (which could become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 this weekend) and his various legal/financial issues.

The Times didn’t tell you that the story behind the story concerned a proxy battle between two of the bigger names in the New York PR scene.

Hiltzik Strategies represented Zayat while 5WPR represented Howard Rubinsky, a former associate who sued him for $2 million allegedly owed on a gambling debt. (The Times’ Joe Drape covered that story last month, but Rubinsky was not mentioned in the latest chapter.) When Zayat called the initial suit “extortion,” Rubinsky sued him for libel–and Drape covered that story, too.

A judge threw out the first case earlier this week, leading Hiltzik to tell the press that “The Zayats are very grateful for the court’s decision” and Zayat himself to tweet an emoji or two:


Though Zayat did participate in yesterday’s Times story, it is not completely flattering to him–its alternate headline reads “American Pharoah Can’t Erase All of Zayat’s Missteps”–and sources tell us that he hired “guard dog to the starsMartin Singer to try and prevent its publication after 5W placed stories told from Rubinsky’s perspective in The New York Observer, New Jersey dot com, and other publications.

On the whole, we would call this one a draw: the suit went away, both firms received plenty of coverage for their respective clients, and Drape managed to tell both sides of the story.

Now we’ll see whether American Pharoah (and his misspelled name) can win the Belmont Stakes tomorrow.

On a side note, here’s an interesting graphic history of the Triple Crown submitted to us by data analyst Matthew Zaffina of Rukkus.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: June 5, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT