Richard Levick, ‘father of modern reputation management,’ dies at 65

Levick is remembered for his work on prominent geopolitical crises including Guantanamo Bay and Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.

Richard Levick, Esq., who pioneered the fields of crisis and litigation management, died on Tuesday from complications of cancer. He was 65.

As chairman and CEO of Levick, he worked with companies and global governments on some of the highest-profile crises of the last few decades including the Gulf oil spill, the Venezuelan financial crisis, Chinese trade wars and more, according to his biography on the firm’s website.

Levick also represented the Catholic Church during clergy abuse scandals, memories he recounted in a 2018 Forbes op-ed.

“So, I entered our engagement with this order of the Church instinctively aware of the stakes; instinctively aware that, when a great institution is mortally wounded, we are all harmed,” Levick wrote. “We all lose some vital comfort, some sense of shared mission. The longer any institution ignores the causes of its crises, the greater the peril it must ultimately face.”

Perhaps most famously, Levick represented a group of accused terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay, the Washington Post reported. Many said they were wrongfully arrested in Afghanistan.

Levick’s strategy involved humanizing the Kuwaiti men and emphasizing the American values he said were violated by their detention, trying to find common ground with conservatives on Constitutional issues related to habeas corpus and due process.

“Without question, he was the father of modern reputation management,” said Max Marcucci, senior vice president at Levick.  “Coming from a legal background and working with law firms to represent the law firms themselves and to represent their clients, that’s really the story of Richard and his legacy.”

Levick earned his J.D. from American University, where he would later become director of the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program. He also held a master’s degree in environmental advocacy from the University of Michigan. He was a member of the faculty at Fordham Law School and gave lectures at institutions including West Point, Harvard and Georgetown Law.

Levick co-authored four books, including “Stop the Presses: The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference,” was a frequent commentator in the media and hosted the “In House Warrior” podcast.

Levick’s firm will host a celebration of life, with details forthcoming.

Diane Schwartz, CEO of Ragan Communications, recalls her early career days in the industry and Levick helping her to navigate. “I have learned so much from Richard over the years, and am saddened by his passing. We’ve lost an industry icon who was so wise, supportive, funny and kind.”

An email sent from Marcucci remembered Levick as a man with ”seemingly boundless energy, passion, thirst for knowledge, and sense of humor.”

“We will miss Richard deeply, but his legacy will live on through the work that we do every day, the people who were made better for having known him, and the countless reputations that were saved because of him.”

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.