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Macron eyes Murdoch’s former top lobbyist as his next spin doctor

Macron eyes Murdoch’s former top lobbyist as his next spin doctor

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is considering former News Corporation lobbyist Frédéric Michel as his new communications adviser, sources familiar with the matter told POLITICO’s Playbook Paris.

Macron has been looking to fill the crucial post for months, following the departure earlier this year of Clément Léonarduzzi — a top strategist and communications adviser to the French president.

A public affairs expert once close to France’s former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the U.K.’s center-left New Labour party, Michel is best known for his work as a top lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in the U.K. Michel made headlines there in 2012 during the Leveson inquiry, which looked into the British press’ ethics and practices following Murdoch’s News International phone hacking scandal.

Michel held the job at News Corp during the company’s bid for satellite TV giant British Sky Broadcasting.

The Leveson inquiry published a 163-page report revealing extensive communications between Michel and then-U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s office. The cosy nature of their private exchanges triggered a major political storm, given Hunt was at the time meant to be a neutral arbitrator in the decision whether to refer the controversial deal to Britain’s competition authority. Hunt’s political adviser was forced to resign, although Hunt himself clung on to his job.

The French national currently works at Lupa Systems, a private investment company founded by James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch. Lupa Systems has invested in French media company Brut. Michel is also a board member at French weekly newspaper Les Inrocks.

If confirmed, Michel would have to be cleared by the French administrative authority in charge of scrutinizing possible conflicts of interest.

If Michel bags the job as the Elysée’s next communications adviser, he will have the delicate mission of handling Macron’s relationship with the press, which has been tumultuous at times.

POLITICO reached out to both Michel and the Elysée, who did not comment.

Camille Gijs contributed reporting.

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