Armand Hammer's Friend Takes Novel Approach to Rap Sharp Critic of Oilman

September 13, 1987|DONALD WOUTAT

There are friends, and then there are Armand Hammer's friends. The difference is illustrated in an unusual full-page advertisement in September's issue of Manhattan inc. magazine, passionately defending Hammer from a recent attack in the same publication.

The ad was written by Bruce W. Kauffman, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and sometime attorney for Hammer's Occidental Petroleum Corp., who took bitter exception to a critical review of the oilman's latest autobiography, "Hammer."

Why not just write a letter to the editor? Because Manhattan inc. refused to publish the material that way, which wouldn't have cost the writer anything. This way, the magazine collected about $6,700 in ad revenue, according to Kauffman.

"It would have been a lot cheaper for them to just print a few paragraphs as a letter to the editor," says Kauffman, a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and chairman of the prestigious law firm Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Kauffman.

And why is Kauffman writing to defend Hammer? Kauffman says it is his own personal outrage at the bludgeoning that Hammer received in the book review, which called him a "small-time hustler" and "Soviet apologist" who is "so amoral it makes your skin crawl."

The heated tone of both the review and the letter reflect the strong views, pro or con, that people have of the 89-year-old Hammer, an oilman, philanthropist, Sovietologist and admitted self-promoter.

"I was infuriated by it," says Kauffman, an admirer who has attended Hammer's last three star-studded birthday parties. "I wrote a letter, but the editors refused to print any part of it."

Editor Clay Felker of Manhattan inc. explains that he figured Kauffman, as a lawyer who has represented Oxy, was tantamount to a press agent writing on Hammer's behalf.

"We said we'd print the letter if Hammer himself would sign it," Felker says. "But Kauffman is paid by Hammer as a lawyer. If you're being paid to write it, you can pay for the space. We're not in the practice of letting PR men get free space in the magazine. . . . The magazine has a right to its opinion."

Did Felker say "some nasty things about Hammer" over the phone, as Kauffman says? Naw, replies Felker, he was just challenging the accuracy of some of the things Kauffman said about Hammer in his 1,700-word letter.

"If I really felt so strongly about Hammer, I would have printed the letter and then responded to it in an editor's reply," Felker says.

The review of the book was written by Joseph Nocera, executive editor of New England Monthly. The letter in response to the review, Kauffman insists, was his idea.

He says that he was neither paid to write it nor reimbursed for the ad. Kauffman says he has represented Occidental in several cases, including its merger with Cities Service.

In the past, Hammer has boasted of having browbeat New York Times Publisher Arthur Ochs (Punch) Sulzberger into printing an unusually long letter in response to a critical Times magazine article exploring Hammer's extensive ties to the Soviet Union.

In Los Angeles, however, an Occidental spokesman said Hammer and the oil company had nothing to do with this latest episode.

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