Several offensive stories, some years old, have been taken down from the site archives in recent weeks, sources said.
One of the few bylines still on the site belongs to Torossian. He apparently placed some stories on the site himself. In one Torossian article published Nov. 1, 2019, on public relations do’s and don’ts, company heads are urged to be “open and respectful, yet transparent.” But many executives who have left 5WPR said they were subject to belittling comments, verbal abuse and ridicule while there, as well as bad references from Torossian when they tried to land a new job in the industry.
Torossian in the article also admonishes, “It may be obvious, but employees should never be asked to directly or subtly to do anything illegal or against company policy.” That may come as a surprise to a former executive who was reprimanded by Torossian after admonishing three young women from 5WPR who had gone on ABC’s Good Morning America, falsely pretending that they were random people who had had botox treatments as teenagers. Torossian had set up a plastic-surgeon client he represented to get good PR by speaking out against the practice.
Now for the first time since the ownership change at EPR when he took over, Torossian has owned up. The website’s About Us page now contains this disclaimer: “Everything-PR is operated by PR agency 5WPR.”
The acknowledgement comes after years of Torossian denying he or 5WPR owned the site. “It would be incorrect to say Ronn Torossian owns Everything-PR,” he told this reporter in December.
The founders of the site tell a different story. Phil Butler, who was the original editor-in-chief of EPR said that in 2014, Torossian paid only $2,500 to buy the site that was owned by Phil's wife, Mihaela Lica Butler.
“We were experiencing financial difficulties at the time and we thought Torossian was a friend,” said Phil Butler, who now lives on the island of Crete with his wife.
But he quickly found Torossian to be no friend. Shortly after buying the site, Butler said, Torossian erased Butler's name from the archives and replaced it with a fake editor name, Richard D. Pace.
Butler said his wife’s byline was replaced in the archives with another made up name, Archie Obrien. Other fake names such as Jason Tannahill also appeared atop many of the stories in the archives.
“None of those names are real,” Butler said. “We begged Ronn to put our names back, but he refused.” Bizarrely, in recent weeks after a flurry of news stories revealing Torossian’s involvement with the PR news site in the Daily Beast, The New York Times and the New York Post, all the fake byline names were erased and replaced with a new anonymous byline, By EPR staff.
However, the former names can still be found on cached stories on the internet archive site, The Wayback Machine. But searching for the names of the founders via the search engine on the actual Everything-PR.com home page now yields no such record. And none of the fake names used for nearly eight years can be found via the site's own search button either.
Disguising his ownership between the 2014 purchase until early this year could put Torossian in violation of Federal Trade Commission rules on fair marketing and advertising standards.
According to the FTC's website, “Under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based.”
In its FTC Endorsement Guides, the government consumer watchdog proclaims, “the Guides say, if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”
The FTC guidelines do not specifically cover the oddity of a PR agency secretly buying a news site without disclosing it to the public.
“It's FTC policy that we don't comment on specific companies or conduct like this,” said deputy director of public affairs Peter Kaplan. Torossian himself declined to comment on whether he had heard from the FTC.
One round-up story, penned on the site by a Jade Minh—apparently another made-up name whose byline has recently disappeared—opens with the question: “What kind of clients wouldn't you work with?” Among the executives quoted in the round-up is none other than Torossian, CEO of 5WPR. “We follow the no-assholes rule more than anything else when it comes to clients we won't want to work with,” he is quoted as stating.
One of his early clients was Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, who was convicted of tax evasion and bribery. Francis saw his company go bankrupt and fled the country for Mexico to avoid a mulit-million-dollar court-ordered settlement of a civil suit filed by Wynn casinos to satisfy millions in gambling debts.
While past clients have included the Sergeants Benevolent Association and conservative Christian and Orthodox Jewish clients, one of Torossian's most lucrative long-time clients has been the adult site Pornhub.
One story in Everything-PR even insisted that Pornhub is “much needed viewing for PR professionals” because it engaged in environmental PR by planting trees based on page views of its erotic content and supported breast cancer awareness campaigns. “Pornhub has brilliant PR,’ the article stated, adding, “Their PR Agency in the U.S. is 5WPR.” Needless to say, there was never a mention in EPR of lawsuits over the years accusing Pornhub and its parent company Mind Geek of profiting from the exploitation of underage children or aiding and abetting human sex trafficking.
After this story was initially published, Torossian told Crain's his firm no longer represents Pornhub.
Torossian's once-cozy relationship with new Mayor Eric Adams—where Torossian paved the way for Adams to gain entree into the exclusive members-only NoHo club Zero Bond on election night and at other times pre- and post-election—appears to have cooled after news reports about Torossian's sketchy past resurfaced. Adams was asked at a press conference in mid-January if he still socialized with Torossian, but he declined to specifically distance himself. "I socialize with all New Yorkers," he said.
Sources say there has been a decided chill and no contact between the two since Adams was sworn in on January 1.