R. William Murray

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Editor's note: A misrepresentation reported on this page has been corrected. R. William "Bill" Murray is not president and COO of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and was not co-CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. The correct William M. Murray who is president and COO of PRSA can be found here.

R. William "Bill" Murray circa 1992. Photo from Internet Archive.

R. William Murray, generally known as Bill Murray was the top public relations and lobbying strategist for the tobacco industry for twenty years.

Until 1998 Murray was a President and & Chief Executive Officer for Philip Morris Companies Inc. (the holding company). Before that, he ran Philip Morris International and PME Europe divisions. For the decade between 1985 and 1995 he assumed control of the global tobacco industry's anti-World Health Organization campaign and other anti-restriction and smoking-promotion strategies.

Note: There is also a scientist named Richard W. Murray who is no relation. And don't confuse this Bill Murray with the one who runs the Public Relations Society of America and headed the Motion Picture Association of America.

Biography

Bill Murray was an Australian by birth and a chartered accountant by trade. He managed to work his way up the Philip Morris heirarchy under the mentorship of Hamish Maxwell (a member of a British tobacco family), with the help of an Australian media mogul friend, Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation. In turn, Murray mentored his close Australian 'mate' and fellow chartered accountant Geoff Bible to succeed him as he moved progressively up the corporate ladder.[citation needed]

Murray and Bible also mentored the Phillip Morris Australia operations tactician Andrew Whist, who was a Australian migrant from Norway (and a sales manager for casual shoes), and they also were instrumental in promoting Whist's friend (and Murdoch's supposed nephew-by-marriage) Bryan C. Simpson to head the international tobacco institute lobbyshop known as INFOTAB. This cabal of Australian and English executives drove much of the global tobacco industry's strategy between the mid-1980s and 2000.[citation needed]

Mutual help friendships

Bible and Murray had been inseparable companions after leaving Melbourne, Australia together in 1959 to see the wider world. They worked together in the Middle East and then in Geneva, then in the European Philip Morris where they joined forces with Hamish Maxwell. In Philip Morris International based in New York, Hamish Maxwell, Murray and Bible moved in lock-step up the corporate ladder, one step at a time, with each supporting the one above and helping those below.

However, the American media focus on the tobacco industry in the 1980s was almost entirely on the American executives of the domestic company. So this British-Australian cabal which came to run the global tobacco-war strategy was almost entirely overlooked, and their role only began to be recognised when the tobacco archives became available on-line.

Murray retired from Philip Morris (as did all the top Australians) when the Master Settlement Agreement was signed in November 1998.

Murray is said to now be "an occasional smoker of Merit cigarettes".[citation needed] At earlier times he was a heavy smoker, often scathing about a non-smoking executive of the company. He may have moderated his habits in February 1972 when he was briefly back in Australia. He telexed Alexander Holtzman (for the information of Bible and Maxwell) in New York:

Warm reception in Sydney, Andrew Whist is a superb organiser. Dinner with Rothmans, British Tobacco and Peter Golding, PR from Eric White Assoc. View John Dixon's film. Unfortunately, William Bengtsson, whom I had just met and who was our host at luncheon collapsed and died at the luncheon table, and my attempts to resuscitate him were completely fruitless. After this unhappy incident we held a briefing session, and the schedule is clear. This morning Andrew & I flew to Sydney. I had luncheon with John Rossiter, the Minister of Health for Victoria. [1]

Tobacco Years

Direct Smoking: Murray was responsible for many of the later Philip Morris activities and industry strategies to camoflage, deny, and corrupt the scientific and medical findings that cigarettes caused lung-cancer, heart disease, and a host of other serious conditions. However, by the time he rose to power, the smoking-and-health linkages were well established. His tactics mainly involved providing enough cover for unfettered-free-enterprise politicians to maintain a public position that "correlation did not prove causation" ... that statistics didn't prove cause-and-effect and that the economic cost of smoking was inconclusive.

Passive Smoking: Murray's focus was therefore almost entirely directed towards the emerging problem of passive smoking [Known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)] which had become an even greater regulatory threat to the cigarette companies. By this time both active and passive smoking were also a global problems, not just U.S. domestic ones, which is why PM International and its ex-pat executives came to the fore in the industry. They understood Europe, the Middle East and Australian markets and politics. For many years it was possible to maintain the political stance of "not-proven" on the question of passive-smoking's threat to non-smokers, in the same way the industry had fought a rear-guard action over direct smoking. However this entailed the use of different tactics, and employing different academics and scientists to promote their case in different venues and languages. They also had to "educate" a new breed of politicians around the world -- through generous applications of campaign funding, junkets and speaker's fees.

Some of Murray's more famous activities are:

  • INBIFO: Shortly after Murray joined Philip Morris Europe in 1970, it secretly purchased a Cologne-based research institute call INBIFO, the Institut fur Biologische Forschung [1], and Murray was credited with the success of this operation.[2] INBIFO continued to operate as an 'independent research laboratory' but covertly conducted smoking and health research for Philip Morris, which under the Gentleman's Agreement with the other tobacco companies -- and the risk of discovery in court cases -- couldn't be done in America. This was all legitimate scientific research but it was being conducted clandestinely so that the tobacco companies could deny its validity if evidence emerged which was contrary to their interests.
  • INFOTAB: This was the later version of the International Committee on Smoking Issues (ICOSI), which itself grew out of Operation Berkshire. Murray was primarily responsible for forcing the disbandment of ICOSI in 1980, and the creation of INFOTAB. [3] In essence the new organisation was the international version of the US Tobacco Institute, and it was run by Bryan Simpson, Rupert Murdoch's ex-marketing manager (Herald-Sun newspapers in Australia,) who was also Murdoch's nephew-by-marriage. Murray played a key role in the recruitment of Simpson. Under Simpson, the INFOTAB played an important role in the preservation of smoking internationally using much of the tactics developed by Murray and his disciple, Andrew Whist.[4]
  • Murdoch and News Corp. Ltd: The enlistment of Rupert Murdoch to the pro-tobacco cause was a major coup for the industry because it gave them access to broadcast and print editorial pages [5] and the ability to insert op-ed articles and letters-to-the-editor into newspapers around the world. [6] Murdoch and News Corp. also established with the tobacco industry a global partnership for their right-to-advertise campaign -- not necessarily directly through Murdoch personally, but through his executives. [7] Murdoch was on the board of Philip Morris.
    • Andrew Whist made the first contacts with News Ltd. in Australia during 1975 when both groups were working with the Liberal Party to overthrow the Whitlam Labor Government. [8] Then, in 1978, he formalised the connection (he was a friend of Bryan C. Simpson) between the News Corp executive, Ken Cowley and Geoff Bible. [9]
    • From this time on Bible and Murray provided the US contacts directly with Murdoch who became personal friend to both. The media mogul's was recruited under Maxwell as a Philip Morris director (he headed their "Remunerations committee"). This friendship eventually gained them direct links to Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and key politicians and governors -- and it also allowed them to utilize News Ltd's Congressional surveillance system. [10].
    • PM and News Corp developed a worldwide agreement over advertising and joint promotions. [11] and in 1985 Maxwell, in a speech written by Murray, promoted Murdoch's value to Philip Morris:

As regards the media, we plan to build similar relationships to those we now have with Murdoch's News Limited with other newspaper proprietors. Murdoch's papers rarely publish anti-smoking articles these days

Until about 1985, Whist remained the key contact, while Bible clearly became 'the best friend' of Murdoch only at a later date [12]. Maxwell, Murray and Bible eventually jointly elevated Murdoch to the Philip Morris board in August 1989 [13] which made public his support [14], and, in turn they received exchange directorships on various News Corp. boards.[15] [16]

  • Operation Downunder: This was a major (five year) project involving R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and the Tobacco Institute [17]) It was designed by Murray to attack the problem posed by ETS and passive smoking [18] both in the USA. and internationally. [19]
Murray was the instigator (hence the name 'Downunder') and he remained the main controller. Operation Downunder while Andrew Whist did the leg work with committees and contractors [20] and Mary Pottorff ("Mopsy") acted as the coordinator:
The project extended over many years and involved many people in many countries and companies, but it followed a number of clear themes that Murray established for guidance:
    • Public-attitude research, [21] advertising, articles ghost-written for the press, etc.
    • The development of coalitions with other industries, using the "slippery slope" argument (once the activists have finished attacking tobacco, they will turn on other industries).
    • Recruiting Whitecoats and other consultants; [22] [23]
    • Attacking the credibility of US Surgeon-General Koop;
    • Buying general-readership media outlets to control the press,
    • Creating a covertly-controlled. Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR),
    • The endowment of university chairs in disciplines that could be useful to them (like Risk Analysis and Assessment). [24]
  • Media buyouts: The tobacco companies regularly floated the idea of getting better press by buying out major publishing groups like Knight-Ridder, Omni Magazine, Science Magazine and Saturday Review. All were mentioned as possibilities in some of the executive planning sessions. : Saturday Review which was one of the great cultural magazines of its day was purchase (behind a smokescreen) by Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco via the lawyers Shook, Hardy and Bacon in Kansas city (in 1983) and sold into the Penthouse stable a few years later.
  • Fake International Organisations: Under Murray's direction Andrew Whist embarked on a long career creating fake organisations which had all the extraneous appearance of having real business memberships (but which he admitted in court were no more substantial than a chair in his New York apartment. [25] These were used as a vehicle for laudering payments to politicians (via. high fees for giving luncheon speeches and junkets). The scheme also providing politicians and media people with luxury travel, accommodation, and sometimes escort services.
One of Maxwell's 1983 executive speeches boasts about the company's broadbased political contact program at an international level.

Two organisations which Philip Morris supports [actually owns] - the American-European Community Association and the New York Society for International Affairs -- bring together members of the business community on both sides of the Atlantic with high-level officals in an out of government. [They had more than just these two, and had infiltrated many more genuine 'friendship' organisations as well].

We have embarked on other courses to further develop our political contacts base which Bill Murray will discuss in more detail. Through our contributions to the American Council for Young Political Leaders we have had the opportunity to meet and get to know political leaders from Australia, Western Europe, and Central America. And our participation at last week's meeing of the Pacific Democrat Union [an international conservative forum begun by Margaret Thatcher] has opened up yet another avenue for acquainting ourselves with members of the world's political thinkers.

  • Big Chill strategies: Under Bill Murray's watch, Philip Morris began a systematic program of retribution against enemies that was known in the company as a "Big Chill" strategy:
    • When applied to politicians, it consisted of picking out an anti-smoking Representative or Senator at election time and throwing the full economic weight of the company behind his opponent to defeat him. Millions of dollars were spent on some individual campaigns, and the only way the company got their money's worth was by subtlely leaking the fact that they were responsible for the defeat to other politicians. This post-election chilling effect, was the key. [26]
    • With publishers (especially of magazines) a similar program of retribution was used to attack those magazines which refused cigarette advertising. Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds were able to use the threat of removing advertising of their associated companies (which included Kraft, General Foods, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Millers Breweries, 7-Up, Nabisco, Del Monte. etc. etc.). This was often enough to drive medium sized general-interest magazines to the wall.
  • Training in Coalition Strategies: Top level strategists/tacticians, Murray and Whist, demanded that all managers focus on PR and lobbying. They also emphasise the need to enlist other organisations in support of the tobacco industry. As Bill Murray says in a 1983 pep talk to his international managers: [27]

'What I ask of you today is to learn and apply certain universal rules of the public affairs game. [] Part of good planning is recognizing that public affairs is a professional discipline that demands keen judgement and attention to detail. Create human contact with the people in government who influence legislation affecting tobacco; generate a counterforce of good will that increases your chances of fending off anti-tobacco laws and directives. In Western Australia, the tobacco industry joined forces with the sports associations, media groups and advertising agencies to present a hard-hitting campaign that beat back a bill that would have banned all cigarette advertising

  • PM International Institute for Molecular Sciences: It is difficult to know what Murray was intending here. He took on this $225 million project as his last major involvement in Philip Morris in 1995, and was listed on the board in July 1995. [28] [29]

He was also still being copied about Philip Morris's board matters and legal actions in October 2000, well after he was supposed to have retired.[citation needed]

Biography

William "Bill" Murray was born in Australia in 1934 at the tail end of the Great Depression. His family lived on a small soldier-settlement farm in Rankin's Springs on the New South Wales side of the Murray River almost directly north of Melbourne. This is known as Victoria's Mallee country, and it proved to be highly variable land for farming. Murray's father lost the property in a period of drought and depression and the family moved to Melbourne.

His (later best-friend), Geoff Bible was born two years later, a few miles away from Rankin Springs in the more urbanised federal capital of Canberra. Bible, at age 14, left school and went to work for the Department of Transport; we don't know about Murray's later education, but it was probably in Canberra, the closest major township to Rankin Springs.

The two met again some years later in Melbourne, Victoria.They had both been studying by correspondence and night school to earn the cherished CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant) qualification [30]: the CPA certificate could get you a job in a bank, insurance company, or small business enterprise.

After qualifying in 1958, Bible took a job as an accountant with Holmes & Perks a small Melbourne accountancy firm. (This may have been where they met and became friends).

Overseas adventuring

Murray and Bible were practicing Catholics, and in 1959, with Murray aged 24 and Bible 22, they set out by ship on the great 'overseas trip' which was the Aussie equivalent of the British nobility's "Grand Tour" in the 16th Century. They had already lined up jobs as volunteer accountants with Catholic Relief in Jordan (and Lebanon). [2] Catholic Relief was helping refugees during the Palestinian crisis in the Middle East following the establishment of Jewish control of Israel. While they were there, Catholic Relief was incorporated into the UN Relief Agency (now UNRWA) and its headquarters (and its accountants) transferred to Geneva, Switzerland.

While working in Geneva they socialised with a group of ex-pat Australians, who played squash with resident British and Americans: most of whom worked for the UN. Among this group were David A. Morse (the famous Director General of the International Labor Organisation) and Francis Blanchard (who became ILO Director General after Morse). Also Warren W. Furth (who moved up to be Associate Director-General of the World Health Organisation).

The son of a famous UK tobacco family,Hamish Maxwell was then running Philip Morris's European operation in Lausanne, only a few miles away, and he was also a member of this social set. David Morse then recruited Bible as his ILO financial officer, but Bible only stayed a bit over a year. One report say that "Murray worked for the International Labor Organization in Geneva" [source needed]. But this either means he followed Bible into the job, or it may be a confusion; Bible certainly became budget manager for the ILO for most of 1964 and 1965 (during the Six Day Arab-Israel war), but Murray appears to have stayed on with the UN Relief agency.

Bible moved over to briefly work for Maxwell at Philip Morris Europe, then joined Esso petroleum, and then took a well-paying job promoting dubious West Australian nickel shares. He left PM in 1970, and spent six years working for an Australian stockbroking firm Ralph W King Yuill in Switzerland. Yuill specialised in selling dubious nickel stocks during the famous "Poseidon boom" scam, and ended up in trouble. In his spare time Bible married into the English aristocracy.

Murray joins Philip Morris

When Bible resigned in 1970 to get wealthy, Bill Murray took his job at Philip Morris Europe (PME) in Lausanne, so he was able to keep his old contacts with the social set in Geneva. At PME, his new boss Hamish Maxwell soon recognised his talent, and elevated him to Acting Director, Finance, of the new division being formed, Philip Morris International (which had its headquarters in New York).

Philip Morris, at that time had just moved overseas (Australia was its first foreign venture). it had grown to become the second ranking cigarette company in the USA and Marlboro cigarettes held the second position in sales. The company was expanding into foods and beverages, and had just bought Millers Breweries, and was eyeing off food companies,

In Australia, PM was also booming under the leadership of Geoff Bible; it had just expanded into the Aussie liquor market by buying the country's largest winery, Lindeman Wines, at the time when wine sales had begun to skyrocket. So Philip Morris was in a period of rapid international expansion, and Maxwell and Murray were the right people in the most progressive part of the company; and they were ready and willing to exploit their good fortune. Maxwell brought Murray to New York to head the new International division. Then in 1974 he was given a short burst of managerial experience running Benson & Hedges in Canada. Bible rejoined the International division in Europe at this time as Vice President of Corporate Planning, and soon followed Maxwell and Murray to New York.

The Norwegian migrant Andrew Whist, who became Philip Morris's most accomplished lobbyist, had joined PM Australia (which was under Maxwell and Murray's control) as the political troubleshooter specialising in the area of Science & Health. Whist soon established himself as the strategic planner and political organiser for the Australian tobacco industry as a whole. Australia was seen as posing a real threat to the cigarette industry because all cigarette companies were either British- or American-owned (so there was little local industry to protect), and in 1972 the country had elected the Whitlam Labor government (seen by American businessmen, as nothing less than a socialistic pact with the devil). They were decidedly anti-smoking.

Until this time most of the science-corruption in the tobacco industry had been low key, and in Philip Morris it was under the control of the US domestic division, Science & Technology, led by the legendary Helmut Wakeham. International PR and science-corruption operations were run by the local PR staff in each country (Whist in Australia) but all correspondence and budgets had to pass through New York lawyer Alex Holtzman to provide the activities with the necessary legal protection from discovery.

The reputation of the Australians in the company may have been boosted by their exaggeration of the role PM Australia (led by Whist) played in the defeat of the Labor Government, and its political nous in dealing with State Liberal governments. It was also a time of rapid international expansion, and it soon became apparent that American executives didn't understand European markets, business practices or political systems.

As a consequence, the Australian-British contingent in Philip Morris International rose through the ranks, and emerged in control. Bill Murray, more than any of them, was the planner of these tactics.

Documents & Timeline

Murray lived in Rankin Springs, just out of Canberra, while Bible lived and worked as a clerk in Canberra. They both did an accountancy course by correspondence, which registered them as Chartered Accountants. They shifted to Melbourne, joined the Catholic refugee organisation (as accountant) sending young men overseas to the Middle East to help refugee program (which later merged with the UN Relief Agency).


1959: Sailed from Melbourne with Bible


1964: left UN Relief Agency (possibly worked for ILO)


1970: Manager, Finance then Acting Director, Finance for PM Europe in Lausanne under Hamish Maxwell. Geoff Bible briefly sold Australian nickel mining stock, married, and joined the International Labor Organisation in Geneva under David A Morse.


1971: Manager for Finance in Europe for PM International under Maxwell


1972: Vice President Finance, PMI in New York, Looking after European operations on Smoking & Health.


1974: Brief time managing B&H Canada to give him some actual management experience. (He still remained in charge of Europe for PMI)


1976: Bible rejoins Philip Morris Europe under Murray.


1978-81: Bible Vice President of PM International (Buys Rothmans - overseeing PM Australia)


1982-83: Bible gets management experience in Australia (runs Asian operations, and works with Whist).


1983-88: Murray and Whist in New York running PM International (Maxwell now Chairman of the PM Corporation, (the food, beer and tobacco conglomerate)


1984: Murray elected to the Board under Maxwell


1987: Murray Acting Chairman of the Board. Bible becomes President and CEO of PM International


1988: Bible and Murray set out the Boca Raton plan. Rupert Murdoch also involved. (Maxwell now 'Emeritis Chairman' engaged in company acquisitions)


1989: Rupert Murdoch joins the Board.


1990: Murray Chairman of Philip Morris Companies (top management company) They buy Kraft, and Bible is put in to straighten Kraft, General Foods, and KFC out.


1993: Maxwell and the Australians now circumventing the last of the Americans in the hierarchy, Michael Miles.


1994: Murray demoted to Vice President by Miles. They then push Miles out with $5 million handshake. Murray takes over as COO under Maxwell. Bible becomes CEO of worldwide tobacco operations and Rupert Murdoch gives him a board position on BSkyB satellite TV operations in the UK. (Maxwell and Murray are already on News Ltd. boards) [details needed]


1995 Oct: Murray retired -- maybe to the role of Emeritus Chairman (replacing Maxwell), Bible is now Chairman and CEO. International business is now $32 billion, Domestic PM business only $31 billion.


1996 Aug: Bible forced to admit there are links between smoking and ill-health.


1997: Bible negotiating Master Settlement Agreement for the industry as a whole.


1998: Rupert Murdoch puts Bible onto the board of News Ltd.


2000 Oct: Murray and Maxwell still being ccd on important board-room matters.

References

  1. Bill Murray, Philip Morris Untitled Letter 1 page. February 15, 1972. Bates No. 2025036686
  2. USA Today article 22 June 1994


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