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Saturday 17 February 2018

I took Van at his word: PR guru

'The usual logic doesn't apply to him'


VAN Morrison's friend, PR guru John Saunders spoke out last night in a fresh effort to explain the publicity-shy singer's method as the mystery surrounding the malicious internet hoax announcing the birth of a son to him, and his American manager, Gigi Lee, persisted.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Saunders moved specifically to dampen down speculation fuelled by Morrison's claim that he did not know, and had never even heard of Ms Lee, his American producer, tour manager and his co-director in 14 companies in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Morrison's startling claim that he didn't know Ms Lee was first relayed on his behalf by Mr Saunders in an interview the PR man gave on RTE Radio 1's News at One programme last Thursday.

Commenting on the fake statement posted on Morrison's website in which the birth of George Ivan Morrison III to Van Morrison and Gigi Lee was announced, Mr Saunders said: "Well, eh, none of it is true. And in fact when I spoke to Van a short while ago, I said like, "do you even know this person?' And he's never heard the name at any stage in the past. He doesn't know who this person is."

Asked last night how Morrison could possibly claim not to know Ms Lee, given her present and pivotal role in both his career and his business, Mr Saunders, who is head of the European office of leading public relations firm Fleishmann Hilliard, did his best to explain his friend's recent behaviour.

He said: "What I can say? Knowing Van as I do, the kind of logic I'd apply to you or to me does not apply to him. Because somebody has signed [company] documents together, all of those things might seem to you or to me, that of course you would know their names. But with him, nothing about whom he would know or whatever would surprise me. So, to me that is believable.

"I suspect if somebody put a picture in front of him, he would say 'ah, Jaysus yeah, I know them' or whatever. But it wouldn't be incredible, even if her name was on 50 documents. All I know is what he said the other day."

Asked if he had taken the time to carry out any checks himself in relation to the existence of Gigi Lee before going on RTE radio to speak on Morrison's behalf, Mr Saunders said that he had taken what his friend had told him "in good faith".

"I'm not saying anything more. It was a very small window the other day in terms of putting out that statement. I did it in good faith as a friend based upon the things that he said to me, and I did it purely and utterly in a personal capacity to help people who I know over the years very well. That's what I did. I asked him the questions and he gave me the answers," he said.

Mr Saunders declined to elaborate any further on his radio interview remark that he had spoken to both Morrison and his wife, former Miss Ireland Michelle Rocca, before going on air, other than to say that they had spent Christmas Day together.

Mr Saunders added: "I'm not putting myself into this any more. I'm not going to talk about this anymore. I played a role the other day as a friend and beyond that, I'm not part of it.

"This is about Van Morrison. It's not about me. And Van Morrison's view is people either believe him, or they don't. And that's his position on it, and after that people can do whatever, and it's not my business.

"I did something in good faith the other day. I took it at face value from people I know, who I believe to be of integrity, who told me certain things and I took them in good faith. That's all I did."

Sunday Independent

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