Helicopter startup Blade had phony spokesman for years, CEO admits

A tony private aviation charter company took the media for a ride — when they made up a phony spokesman and issued press announcements under his name, an executive admitted in a new interview.

Blade, which provides chartered jets and choppers to the wealthy, created the fictional PR man Simon McLaren, who gave comments to outlets including the New York Times and Washington Post, CEO Rob Wiesenthal told Insider in an article published Thursday.

Wiesenthal insisted that the information issued under the McLaren character’s name was always accurate — and claimed that a lot of growing companies use the tactic because they just don’t have the staff to have a full-time PR rep.

“As a small company, everyone has to wear many hats. When it was appropriate for a spokesman to respond to a press inquiry, rather than the CEO, given that we did not have a spokesman, we used the pseudonym,” Wiesenthal told Insider.

The company even made a Twitter account for McLaren, which described him as a “Jaded New Yorker, raconteur, college dropout writer, student of highly driven narcissists.”

“There was no intention of being duplicitous,” Wiesenthal told Insider. “A lot of people wanted a name for a spokesman, and it was just not appropriate for a CEO to speak. And a lot of people didn’t have training on how to speak with the press. There are a lot of small companies that have done this and continue to do this, but at a certain point you outgrow it, and we outgrew it.”

McLaren appears to have made his debut as a spokesman for Blade in a 2018 Vanity Fair piece.

Since then, the fake identity has been quoted on topics ranging from Blade’s compliance with federal regulations to negotiations with the town of East Hampton, Insider reported. McLaren has even been quoted in the New York Post.

In a statement, Wiesenthal confirmed to The Post that the company used the name Simon McLaren as an alias — but claimed they stopped using the “pseudonym” in the summer of 2020.

However, the name is listed as a contact as late as a November press release.

Blade appears to have stopped using the McLaren alias ahead of the company’s debut on the public markets through a SPAC merger.

The company continued for a few months to use the McLaren name on a series of weekly blog posts called “Simon McLaren’s Curious Content,” which Blade began sending to its email list in October.

“During lockdown, since very few people were flying, the company had a content newsletter with weekly stories unrelated to our business to provide much needed levity to our fliers, and to keep our content and marketing team engaged,” Wiesenthal told The Post. “We used the pen name Simon as a byline.”

Wiesenthal added that the newsletter continues to be published without a byline and “continues to provide lighthearted and cheeky content not associated with the company, its operations or our industry.”

CEO of Blade, Rob Wiesenthal, is pictured on August 24, 2018, at the Blade Midtown East lounge.
Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal said the information the company gave under McLaren’s name was truthful.
Annie Wermiel

The company, according to Insider, sent out a letter to subscribers in January announcing that McLaren would be leaving the company and taking the newsletter with him.

“We are living in a uniquely polarizing time,” the letter said, according to Insider. “As such, despite how much we enjoy Simon McLaren’s Curious Content and his unique perspective on what it’s like to be a diehard New Yorker in this day and age, both Simon and the Company have decided that it’s best that we part ways and transition his weekly newsletter from Blade to him.”

The letter reportedly quoted the phony McLaren, saying that he was no longer an appropriate spokesman because his musings were too controversial.

Wiesenthal told Insider that the drama around McLaren’s departure started as an “inside joke” among the company’s creative team.

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