San Diego Opera hires Mark Fabiani to handle crisis publicity

San Diego Opera patrons gather at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego before a performance of "Don Quixote."
(David Ng / Los Angeles Times)

San Diego Opera has enlisted the spin expertise of Mark Fabiani -- the former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and former special counsel to President Bill Clinton -- to handle the company’s public relations as it faces mounting criticism over its decision to shut down.

A PR man with a long roster of prominent clients, Fabiani was an ascendant L.A. politician during the ‘80s. He served as the chief of staff under L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley and also took on the role of deputy mayor.

Fabiani later served as special counsel to President Clinton, advising him on the Whitewater scandal and other matters.


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Since 2001 he has headed the PR firm Fabiani & Lehane with Chris Lehane. The pair has been dubbed the “Masters of Disaster” for their expertise in crisis management.

Fabiani’s many clients have included Lance Armstrong, who hired Fabiani during the doping scandal that plagued the cyclist; and Goldman Sachs, for whom he worked when the firm faced fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fabiani also serves as special counsel for San Diego Chargers President Dean Spanos.

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San Diego Opera has faced a public backlash over its surprise March announcement that it would close in April just short of its 50th anniversary season. The announcement has exposed divisions within the company, with dissident contingents of board members, employees and performers agitating to save the opera.

Earlier this month, the opera board voted to postpone the closure to April 29. Carol Lazier, a longtime board member, is donating $1 million to help the effort to save the opera and to redefine the company’s mission.


[Updated]: In a statement sent by e-mail, Fabiani said he has “offered to volunteer to help the opera in any way that makes sense, and I am not being compensated by the opera in any way.”


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