Eric Adams needs to ‘quickly move away’ from PR exec: sources
PR executive Ronn Torossian has earned a reputation as a hard-charging pro who built his own prominent firm from scratch.
But as Torossian cozies up as a confidant to Mayor-elect Eric Adams, some Democratic operatives are worried about the closetful of skeletons in his allegedly sketchy past. Not only is Torossian’s firm, 5WPR, the longtime US PR agency for international adult site Pornhub, which has been accused of the sexploitation of children and posting rape videos, he also owns a PR site that he secretly uses to promote his business and take down his enemies, sources told The Post.
In the past few months, Torossian has been helping plan events for Adams, including a victory party at exclusive members’ club Zero Bond in Noho on Nov. 2. On Saturday, after a Daily Beast report started asking questions about Torossian’s “toxic” persona, Adams canceled 10 fundraising events, including a second party at Zero Bond to be hosted by Torossian on Monday.
Some political operatives said Adams is trying to distance himself from Torossian without calling him out directly.
“No one cancels political fundraisers unless they have to,” said Ken Frydman, who has been involved in political campaigns since the early ’90s and now runs the Source Communications public relations firm. “Looks like Eric Adams had to cancel 10 fundraisers because of Ronn Torossian.”
A longtime Democratic consultant, who asked not to be named, said the optics are terrible and Adams should “move away from Torossian as quickly as possible. If you are an ex-cop, you should not be in a private club at night in a room with someone who represents a porn site.
“Even de Blasio never did that,” the Democratic operative added.
An Adams spokesman told The Post the fundraisers were canceled because the mayor-elect has raised $1.5 million and no longer needs money to pay for his inauguration events on Jan. 1. A source in the Adams camp said the mayor-elect was not aware of Torossian’s work with Pornhub and that Torossian is not involved in any policy decisions.
Last October, 50 women reached a settlement in a suit claiming they were duped into filming videos for GirlsDoPorn, a site owned by Pornhub. At least six people were charged by US attorneys with sex trafficking connected to the now-defunct GirlsDoPorn and one was sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this year.
“Few companies have done more to undermine the American family,” Jon Schewppe, director of policy and government affairs at the American Principles Project, said of Pornhub in an interview with the American Conservative in September 2020. He also blasted Torossian’s involvement as the PR agent. “Anyone on the right who cares — or even claims to care — about protecting the family should immediately sever all ties with this individual.”
in February, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) filed a class-action lawsuit representing two underage girls whose videos were used by Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek. One victim said she was just 16 when she was allegedly drugged and raped while filmed by a man in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The second victim claimed she was forced to participate “in the creation of sexually explicit videos that included adults engaging in sex acts with her,” according to a statement from NCOSE.
NCOSE said that in neither case did MindGeek attempt to ascertain the identity or age of the alleged victims before loading the videos onto Pornhub and other platforms.
Torossian told The Post 5WPR is still the rep for Pornhub but declined to comment on the suits. Asked about his relationship with the mayor-elect, he said he “has spoken to Adams since [the] Daily Beast” piece came out, but would not elaborate further.
One vehicle Torossian uses to burnish his image is Everything-PR.com, a site that purports to be an independent news site for the PR world, but which regularly bashes his competitors and praises his clients. It also plugs his own firm, whose logo is prominently displayed on an ad on the website’s home page.
Not long after he purchased the site, a story on the best PR crisis management firms appeared, praising his own firm and stating that “there’s no more aggressive crisis PR in the US than 5WPR.”
The victory party Torossian organized for Adams at Zero Bond also featured prominently the next day on Everything-PR.com, which gushed: “About 125 business leaders, celebrities and supporters nibbled on sliders and sushi as they hailed Adams for his pro-business stance.”
A 2018 article about PR rival Howard Rubenstein, who died in 2020, called him a “legend” but said “there’s no question that the Rubenstein family will take a fall as there’s no heir apparent — and plenty of New York City PR firms wanting to take their clients.”
Everything-PR.com was founded by Mihaela Lica Butler in 2009 and her husband, Phil Butler, served as its editor in chief until it was sold to Torossian in 2014, Phil Butler told The Post. Shortly after the sale, the bylines of Phil, Mihaela and all the writers were erased from their stories and replaced with made-up names, Butler told The Post.
Butler said his name as editor was replaced with the name “Richard D. Pace” and all his wife’s bylines were changed to “Archie Obrien.”
There is zero social media footprint of anyone named Richard D. Pace, Archie Obrien, Jason Tannahill or any of the others listed as the bylined “writers” of the pieces now on the site. Numerous emails I sent to Everything-PR requesting an interview with Pace over the course of two years have never been returned.
“Changing the names of the authors on thousands of stories, some of which were iconic at the time,” Butler said, is “a journalistic ‘no-no.’ ”
Asked why he would remove and change legitimate bylines, Torossian told The Post: “It is incorrect to say Ronn Torossian owns Everything-PR.com.” (Ownership of the site is listed with a Tempe, Ariz., registry firm called “DOMAINS BY PROXY, LLC” which masks ownership for corporations or individuals who do not want their identity disclosed.)
One article supposedly written by “Archie Obrien” and originally published on October 27, 2013, is a glowing profile of Torossian, describing him as a “crisis PR legend” and “a New York PR super hero.”
“There is no such person as Archie Obrien,” Butler told me. “I wrote this article. This was when Ronn and I were on friendly terms.
“Torossian only showed his true colors to me after my wife sold him the media outlet,” he added. “I helped him as I would anybody I thought was a friend.”
Torossian, 47, was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx and attended the elite Stuyvesant High School before graduating from SUNY Albany. At 13, he joined Betar, a right-leaning Zionist student organization, and became the organization’s national president during his college years.
After graduation, he worked for two mid-size PR firms before striking out on his own with the launch of 5WPR in 2003. Among his early clients was the Lukid party of Israel. In the US, his past client list is a mishmash of media, political and entertainment figures, including the Eric Trump Foundation, rappers such as Sean “P Diddy” Combs, the controversial Olivet University run by fundamentalist Christian minister David Jang, and recently fired CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, whom Torossian briefly repped as a crisis manager. (Torossian said he has distanced himself from Olivet University recently. “I haven’t heard from Olivet in quite some time,” he said.)
Torossian’s rise was rapid but he had a pugnacious approach from the start. In a 2006 Ad Age story, he made the trade magazine’s 40 under 40 list, calling many of his PR rivals “antiquated” and “brain dead.”
“ ‘Genteel’ is not often used to describe me,” he told Ad Age at the time.
Torossian met Adams when he was Brooklyn borough president and the PR exec began connecting him to tech, political and entertainment figures in Manhattan, sources close to Adams told The Post.
But, despite his elite connections, some employees who fall out of his favor or quit his company said he has a rough style and raging temper, according to multiple sources. One former top executive who has left 5WPR said he was lured by a big salary, but almost immediately after joining, Torossian said he was going to have to cut his wage.
“We were frequently at odds and almost came to blows in a conference room shortly after joining,” said the executive, who did not want to give his name because he said he feared retaliation.
More than one clash with a top executive has landed in court.
One infamous story, which first appeared in the gossip site Gawker and resurfaced in the Daily Beast article, involved a lawsuit Torossian filed against his former VP of HR, Melissa Weiss, who he claimed violated her contract. She claimed she was fired because she had accused 5WPR of illegal labor practices. An email Torossian sent to Weiss in March 2008, on the the day the suit was filed, contained the subject line: “YOU STUPID C–T.” It said: “You will pay for the rest of your life for trying to ruin my business…Let’s see if you ever work again.”
Weiss did not respond to a request for comment, but Torossian told the Daily Beast, “It’s unfortunate you’re choosing to rely upon 15-year-old, untrue tabloid reports to form your story.”
Another suit in 2013 pitted Torossian against Cynthia Irons, a PR veteran of 17 years when she joined 5WPR as a vice president of tech. According to the suit, Irons was still using her maiden name of Greenberg when she was hired before switching to her married name a few months later.
But after Torossian found out Irons was not Jewish, he appeared “shocked and disturbed,” according to the suit, telling Irons: “I saw the name on your paycheck was Irons, but I hired a Greenberg.”
“Immediately following her meeting with Torossian, her productive and cordial working relationship with him disintegrated into one that was hostile and demeaning,” according to the lawsuit. “Irons went from being a valued employee to one that Torossian could not stand to be around because she was not Jewish.”
Torossian denied in court filings that he made those remarks. The parties came to an out-of-court settlement and the suit was withdrawn, court records show. Torossian said due to the settlement, he is unable to comment on the matter.
Karen Hinton, a former press aide to Andrew Cuomo when he was at HUD and one of the first to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment against the now-ex-governor, said Adams working with Torossian sends all the wrong signals.
“It is important for a new mayor to surround himself with people who are well-liked, trustworthy and well-respected,” Hinton said. Torossian, she added, “doesn’t seem to have any of that.”
“We don’t need anyone taking the mayor’s mind off what is important as the city steers out of crisis.”