Vizard’s spin advisers haven’t had much to smile about in recent weeks,
but his arrival back in the country on Saturday was well orchestrated
and the man himself delivered a flawless statement for the cameras,
concluding with his apology.

It was all too little too late, but
the mechanics are still interesting to follow. Mike Smith and his
offsiders at Inside PR rang around the media mid-afternoon on Saturday
advising that Vizard was scheduled to arrive on a Singapore Airlines
flight from Singapore at 6pm, after originally boarding in Rome. A
brief statement was promised but there would be no questions.

aircraft touched down at 6:07pm but it wasn’t until 7:45pm that the
first passengers began to emerge. The assembled throng of about 40
media were waiting directly outside the international exit, but Vizard
managed to get an inside run from the airport authorities and departed
through a side door. He could very well have done a runner as he ended
up approaching his own press pack from behind at 7:55pm.

was a quick media scramble as the pack turned around and then Vizard
delivered his two-minute statement. Only one hack attempted to ask a
question about the prospect of perjury charges but he didn’t even
finish it as by 8pm Vizard was being driven off by his lawyer mate
Shaun Levin, the registered owner of 48 of the 120 Inside PR shares.

Mike Smith is a former editor of The Age
who has been friends with Steve Vizard for ten years, but even he would
have to admit that having your major outside shareholder as a client
must seem strange, especially when everyone is saying that both parties
have stuffed up the PR badly.

That said, Saturday night went off
without a hitch, highlighting the stupidity of not having Vizard
speaking for himself from the first day. It was a solo performance for
the cameras as Vizard had no PR operatives marshalling the media,
although he did have another friend sorting out his luggage as you
don’t want to be dealing with a press pack while pushing a trolley full
of baggage.

This was enough to deliver the front page splash in The Sunday Age and Sunday Herald Sun and
begin what will be a long and difficult fightback. The story also ran
in all the television bulletins last night and Vizard emerged briefly
from his Toorak home yesterday to give the photographers an alternative
to the airport shot.

3AW presenter Neil Mitchell has long been
close to Vizard’s mate Ron Walker and Mike Smith, so it was not
surprising that this morning Mitchell defended Vizard and said the
press pack was over-reacting.

“Steve Vizard is not Mr Baldy,”
Mitchell told his listeners before accusing former supporters of
leaving him “hung out to dry.” Don’t be surprised when Mitchell lands
the first radio interview after the court process is dealt with.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey