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PR firm known for 1980 Olympic Winter Games sold
CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. - The highly-successful, Capital District public relations firm that gained extensive international recognition for its major role in the XIII Olympic Winter Games is under contract to be sold, according to an announcement made Friday by Ed Lewi Associates’ Founder and President Ed Lewi.
The purchaser is Mark Bardack who has been with the firm for 12 years, and served as its vice president of media relations for the past eight years.
Lewi made the announcement with his 35-year business and marriage partner, Maureen Lewi, executive vice president of the company.
The pair will continue to serve as consultants and trusted advisors to the firm.
Founded in the 1960s as a part time venture, while Ed Lewi was employed as promotion director of the Times Union, Ed Lewi Associates incorporated in 1975, and opened as a full service agency with three major clients – the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Charles R. Wood Enterprises (operator of The Great Escape and other amusement parks) and Price Chopper Supermarkets. The company catapulted to success and wide acclaim when it secured the public relations contract for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, and later consulted on Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo and Calgary.
Ed Lewi Associates’ international sports reputation grew as the firm handled marketing and public relations for the United States Figure Skating Association and the Saratoga Race Course, and media relations and fan events for several international cycling championships and NCAA events. For the Olympic Games in Lake Placid, the corporation was the public relations agency of record, while Ed Lewi served as the press director of the Games and Maureen Lewi served as director of the Main Press Center. The realm of the company’s responsibilities to its clients has spanned from the overall coordination of media operations for World, National and international skating championships and development of sponsorships and TV rights, to creating unique promotions and publicity opportunities for its regional clients.
“I am honored to continue the work and legacy that Ed and Maureen began and have built for more than three decades,” said Bardack, 43, a resident of the Capital Region for the past 15 years. “I have had the privilege and opportunity to learn from the best since joining the firm as a young public relations professional and will cherish the work and life experiences that Ed, Maureen and I have shared for 12 years. But this is by no means the end. I greatly look forward to Ed and Maureen’s trusted counsel as our dynamic team strives to meet the challenges of today’s ever-changing communications landscape to better serve our clients and the greater Capital Region community.
“Over a 55-year communications career that garnered widespread public awareness for his clients, Ed Lewi became known as the man who changed Saratoga Race Course from a racing venue to a renowned and unique ‘happening’, who moved ballet audiences at SPAC from a few hundred to full houses, and who took the United States Figure Skating Association from one sponsor and low TV ratings to 25 sponsors and unprecedented TV ratings.”
While retiring his commercial hat, Lewi will continue his commitments to civic leadership roles and charitable causes like the Double H Ranch for critically ill children, SPAC, and Camp Chingachgook and the Capital District YMCA, where he serves on each of their boards of directors.
Maureen Lewi, who played a major role in special events, promotions, writing and editing, and consumer shows, also oversaw the staffing and business side of Ed Lewi Associates since becoming a partner in 1975. She plans to continue many of her community involvement endeavors.
Ed Lewi Associates became the leader in promotions in and around the Capital Region, beginning in the 1960s, as the company became known for Ed’s unusual public relations maneuvers and razzle-dazzle creativity. The company spent 30 years assisting Price Chopper in developing its community involvement branding, orchestrating promotions ranging from a hot air balloon race across the supermarket’s market area to developing and producing the annual Price Chopper July 4th celebration and fireworks at Albany’s Empire State Plaza. Since 2004, Ed Lewi Associates has represented Hannaford Supermarkets as its public relations agency in New York and Vermont. The firm has worked closely with Hannaford to develop popular community initiatives such as the Hannaford Capital Holiday Lights in the Park and the Hannaford Kidz Expo at the Empire State Plaza; and spearheaded coverage for its innovative, nutritional navigation system called Guiding Stars.
For more than 40 years, Ed Lewi (and later Ed Lewi Associates) worked with amusement tycoon Charley Wood in marketing Storytown USA (later re-named The Great Escape), Gaslight Village and Fantasy Island with outrageous promotions befitting an amusement empire. From a wedding of Lilliputians in a miniature church by a six foot priest to a black-tie gala to open the Raging River at the new waterpark, Wood’s parks were known throughout the national amusement industry for the Lewi-style promotions that produced thousands of national news clips and garnered coverage in hundreds of national magazines.
When Ed Lewi Associates took over the marketing, promotion and media relations for Saratoga Race Course in the late 1970s, track goers experienced everything from philanthropist and horse owner/breeder Marylou Whitney and jockey Angel Cordero riding an elephant and camel, to media coming out of the starting gates on camp horses for the annual media race. National magazines, newspapers and television shows came to the track regularly to be toured around in Greta Garbo’s Duisenberg (or other unique Charley Wood vehicles) by Saratoga’s world-famous “Marylou” or to witness Saratoga’s world-renowned philanthropist, and other famous track regulars, celebrating the racing season at one of Saratoga’s unusual fund raising events. National media photographed “Marylou” and other famous track regulars playing games like Whack-A-Mole or hosting celebrities like Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers, Donald Trump, Merv Griffin, Ava Gabor, Walter Cronkite and others.
“Without Marylou and her donation of time and talent, as well as her personal invitations to celebrity visitors, we could never have made Saratoga as famous as it has become. She was the publicity key that drew national media,” said Ed Lewi.
In addition to the best Thoroughbred racing in the world, visitors to Saratoga Race Course experienced festivals, outlandish hat contests, mini (beer) brew events, ice cream eating contests, Cordero “King of Saratoga crownings”, edible gifts to horses - like a key to the city for Cigar - and a myriad of other unusual promotional events, that were developed and produced by Ed Lewi Associates to brand Saratoga as the “Summer Place to Be”.
Since Ed Lewi Associates represented both SPAC and the track, cross-over promotions and celebrity visits to the track abounded. Performing artists like Peter Martins, Nureyev, Itzhak Perlman, Toby Keith and dozens of rock and roll celebrities visited the race course regularly. During the same time period when Lewi-style SPAC and the track promotions proliferated, SPAC artists participated in events ranging from a performance of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra at Dannemora Prison, to ballerinas driving harness track sulkies, followed by parades honoring choreographers and New York City Ballet Masters in Chief George Balanchine and Peter Martins.
Under its new ownership, the firm will continue to function in its capacity as a full service public relations agency serving more than two dozen clients in business, entertainment, and sports, as well as producing consumer shows in Albany.
Current clients of Ed Lewi Associates, Inc. include Alpin Haus, Citizens Bank, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hannaford Supermarkets, 38 High Rock Condominium, the Great Northeast Home Show, Living Resources, Mazzone Management Group, The New York Racing Association, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Siena Athletics, the Sports Foundation of the Capital Region, Stuyvesant Plaza and The Wesley Community, among others.
Ed Lewi said of his upcoming commercial retirement, “while Maureen and I will miss the day-to-day contact with clients and business associates whom we have come to know as friends, we firmly believe that we have made the best possible choice in passing the reins over to Mark Bardack. Our primary concern was to be certain that our well-established business principles remain intact – attention to clients’ needs, integrity with media and personal pride in doing the best job possible. Over the 12 years that Mark has been with Ed Lewi Associates, he has demonstrated the same type of business principles and ethics that we have deemed priorities. Mark has great talent and is creative in his approach to public relations projects. We have every confidence in his ability to carry Ed Lewi Associates into a new era of communications technology.”
Throughout his tenure with Ed Lewi Associates, Bardack has overseen the firm’s media relations, media training and crisis communications strategies and has collaborated on its marketing, sponsorship and promotional efforts with the firm’s principals and associates. The latter include Marketing Director Lisa Audi, Consumer Shows and Special Events Director Amanda Lecce and Public Relations Specialist Caitlin Merrill.
Among the highlights of Bardack’s career at Ed Lewi Associates is his spearheading of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine to national prominence from its inception in 1999 as the largest prize in medicine in the United States; his media relations work with Saratoga Race Course in helping the track to top the million mark in attendance for its 36-day meet; his efforts to forge collaborative partnerships between Siena Athletics, Dunkin’ Donuts, Northeastern Fine Jewelry and other corporate and community leaders; his leadership role in developing and implementing the communications strategy for Citizens Bank as it entered the marketplace in Upstate New York; his work in helping to shape the yearlong celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stuyvesant Plaza; and most recently his efforts to develop a signature partnership between Dunkin’ Donuts and the Toys for Tots Train which delivers toys to tens of thousands of children in need throughout Upstate New York.
Ed Lewi began his communications career as a sports writer for The Daily Gazette and worked for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as doing television and radio broadcasting. During his 18-year tenure with the Times Union, he served in several advertising capacities and as promotion director.
Concurrently with his communications career, Ed Lewi owned and operated travel and tourism businesses for more than 25 years. He was a partner in Metro Travel Agency of Schenectady, and Divi Hotels, Inc., the largest and most successful hotel chain in the Caribbean during the 1970s and ‘80s. Divi also owned and operated casinos and timeshare resorts.
Lewi has been the recipient of the Silver Medal Person of the Year Award of the Ad Club Association of Professional Communicators and has received numerous international, national and local awards for promotional and public relations concepts from such organizations as the International Newspaper Promotion Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the Northeast Society of Professional Communicators, and Editor and Publisher magazine. He is also the recipient of the Freedom Foundation Award.
Known for his philanthropy and volunteerism for a large number of non-profit organizations, Lewi is currently honorary lifetime founding vice-chairman of the Double H Ranch and a member of the Ranch board of directors. He is a board member and secretary of SPAC and a founding member of the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing. Lewi is a trustee of the Capital District YMCA, and a member of the Saratoga Automobile Museum Board of Directors. He was recently honored by the Saratoga Rotary Foundation for his volunteerism and received the YMCA’s President’s Award for his charitable work.
He is past president of the International Newspaper Promotion Association, the Ad Club Association of Professional Communicators, founding director of the Albany Sports Foundation, past President of the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club, past chairman of the Board of Managers of Camp Chingachgook, and has chaired Capital Fund Campaigns for Camp Chingachgook and the Schenectady YMCA. Camp Chingachgook has named the building housing the dining hall, administrative offices and camp store “Lewi Lodge” in recognition of his longtime dedication to the Lake George summer camp for youths. Lewi is past officer and board member of many other business, civic and non-profit organizations.
Prior to joining Ed Lewi Associates, Maureen Lewi served as a Senate aide to Senator Howard C. Nolan, Jr. and was employed by Nolan & Heller, P.C. She is past chairman of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, and has served on many chamber and community committees. She is past president of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Action Council, and has served as an officer and board member for the Arthritis Foundation, the United Cerebral Palsy Association, Saratoga Bridges (formerly Saratoga ARC), the Northeast Wildlife Foundation, and the Humane Society.
Maureen Lewi has chaired numerous galas and other fundraisers, and has been active on charitable event committees throughout the region. Her emphasis has been on the arts, health and children’s charities, including the Double H Ranch, SPAC, the National Museum of Racing, the National Museum of Dance, the Travers Celebration, the YMCA and Camp Chingachgook, the NYS Museum, Albany Medical Center Children’s Hospital, Proctors Theatre, the Hyde Collection, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Red Cross, among others.
The Lewis live in Saratoga Springs and Naples, FL. They have two sons who operate out-of-state businesses in the entertainment and marketing/communications fields, and four grandchildren.
Before transitioning to a career in public relations, Bardack worked as a television news anchor, managing editor, reporter and producer for network affiliated stations in West Virginia, Michigan and Elmira, N.Y., before relocating to the Capital Region in 1996 for a position with WRGB-TV. Bardack worked as the lead late evening news and weekend reporter, as well as a producer, for the CBS affiliate in Albany until 1998. Shortly thereafter, he joined Ed Lewi Associates as its director of media relations.
Bardack currently serves as a member of the Community Advisory Board for Wildwood Programs and on the Times Union’s Hope Fund. Bardack is also a member of the Volunteer Leadership Committee for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Upstate New York/Vermont chapter after serving on its board of directors for six years.
Bardack earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Russian Studies from Brown University where he was elected a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society. A native of Manhattan, Bardack attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City.
An avid sports fan, political and history junkie, Bardack resides in Clifton Park with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Ashlyn Elizabeth, who attends the Brown School in Schenectady.