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FOX 13 Investigates: High-paid University of Utah executive lied on resume, published fake articles

Christopher Massimine, "the Mastermind," claims to be a major player in the advertising, video game, film, television, music, and theatre industries
Posted at 8:30 AM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 18:39:24-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A FOX 13 investigation has revealed a high-paid executive at the University of Utah deceived recruiters with outlandish claims about his work experience to get the job, though his new career did not stop him from continuing to make similar false statements for years.

Christopher Massimine, the managing director of Pioneer Theatre Company, portrays himself as “the Mastermind,” a major figure in the film, television, advertising, video game, music, and theatre industries.

After an 18-month search to fill the position, the University of Utah was proud to announce the hire of Massimine in 2019.

According to state records, Massimine earns more than $200,000 per year in donor and taxpayer-funded salary and benefits.

Massimine earns more than $200,000 per year in tax-payer funded salary and benefits as managing director of the Pioneer Theatre Company
Massimine earns more than $200,000 per year in tax-payer funded salary and benefits as managing director of the Pioneer Theatre Company

Despite Massimine’s age, just 35 years old, he lists approximately 100 employers, companies, projects, and accolades on his resume and website.

As part of his job application with the University of Utah, Massimine stated he has experience overseeing “budgets upwards of $25mm” and has served as a “creative consultant with several leading companies and their brands.”

Although many of Massimine’s statements have been difficult for FOX 13 to confirm or deny, others have been quite easy to fact check as false.

As you read through the results of this FOX 13 investigation, we will walk through each step of our process in vetting many of the claims on his impressive resume.

As FOX 13 obtains additional information, this report will be updated.

Among the false information, Massimine states he worked as an advertising guru for Old Spice and KFC. He also claims to have worked on some of the highest-profile video game series of the last decade, including Resident Evil and Final Fantasy.

He also claims to have produced episodes of a reality TV show featuring Paris Hilton.

Massimine remains gainfully employed through the University of Utah, despite employees and FOX 13 communicating their concerns to university administration in May.

The University of Utah confirmed he is currently on "approved personal leave."

General claims

FOX 13 obtained a copy of Massimine’s resume, which states he received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from New York University in just three years.

It took approximately five minutes for FOX 13 to call NYU and confirm Massimine did not receive a master’s degree.

Once the University of Utah learned of the discrepancy, Massimine removed his profile photo and the “education” section from his resume on LinkedIn.

Theatre

Massimine’s previous job was CEO of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) in New York.

FOX 13 obtained video from FOX 5 New York, showing a reporter interviewing Massimine at NYTF in 2018.

The story labels him as “an expert on all things Yiddish.”

“It’s a combination of German and phlegm, that’s kind of the joke. Really it was kind of a community-ased language,” Massimine said. “If you’re ‘schlepping’ somewhere, that’s Yiddish. You ate a ‘bagel’? That’s a Yiddish word!”

When FOX 13 asked NYTF to confirm Massimine’s employment, the company responded with a short email and never followed up.

“I have forwarded your request to the Director of the organization,” wrote Steve Ross, director of marketing for NYTF. “I am aware that Chris worked for NYTF for several years.”

Massimine states on his resume he was able to grow the operational budget of NYTF from “$750k to $3mm.”

The resume further claims Massimine grew the theatre's Twitter account to "over 25k Followers." At the time of this article's publication, the account had under 7,000 followers.

Prior to his job at NYTF, Massimine states he worked at the Flea Theater in New York from 2011 to 2012 as the "Marketing and Membership Director."

FOX 13 reached out to the Flea Theater, which has not confirmed or denied his employment.

When announcing the hire, the University of Utah highlighted Massimine as a two-time Tony Award nominee.

However, a spokesperson for Tony Award Productions sent the following statement to FOX 13 via email.

"While Mr. Massimine may have been associated with National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, that organization was listed as a below-title associate producer on the Broadway production of 'Indecent' by Paula Vogel," the spokesperson wrote. "The company was therefore not among the entities that were recognized with a Tony nomination. Whatever Mr. Massimine's contributions may or may not have been to the production, it is not accurate to claim that he is a Tony-nominated producer of that show."

"As an individual, Mr. Massimine did not receive a Tony Award nomination as a producer of American Idiot. It is possible that he was a principal or an employee of one of the producing entities affiliated with that show that was in fact Tony-nominated, but we have no information in that regard. This production is no longer mentioned on the Wikipedia page. We are gratified that the Wikipedia page has been updated."

Humanitarianism

According to Massimine's website, “ImagineTomorrowLLC.com,” in 2019 he was awarded “Humanitarian of the Year” by the “National Performing Arts Action Association”

The website further states Massimine flew to Washington DC in 2020, where he received “an honorary key to the city.”

The University of Utah and Pioneer Theatre Company posted articles, congratulating him.

However, FOX 13 learned the “NPAAA” does not appear to exist outside of press releases advertising Massimine’s award.

In some of the congratulatory photos, Massimine is seen wearing a small medal with a purple ribbon around his neck.

FOX 13 quickly learned the same medal can be purchased online for $4.25.

According to the website “PRDistribution.com,” the NPAAA is “a political action committee comprised of performing arts professionals and benefactors” which “lobbies for the arts and promotes excellence in humanitarianism and innovation as central to culture and society.”

A search on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website confirms the NPAAA is either unregistered or does not exist.

Each and every one of the 166 search results for "National Performing Arts Action Association" mention Christopher Massimine by name, indicating the organization is either fake or created for the sole purpose of awarding him "Humanitarian of the Year."

A former University of Utah employee has confirmed Massimine filed an expense report, asking to use taxpayer money to pay for his trip to Washington D.C. to receive the fake award.

Advertising

Massimine’s resume lists him as a "Media Direction and Communications Consultant" for “Old Spice (Scents for Gents).”

The resume also states he received an “ANDY Award” for “Old Spice’s Scents for Gents” and “Old Spice’s Muscle Man.”

A spokesperson for Wieden+Kennedy, the actual advertising agency in charge of producing Old Spice commercials, confirmed Massimine never worked on those ads.

“That individual has not worked for us,” the spokesperson wrote.

Yet according to an article published on “LondonDailyPost.co.uk,” Massimine was “the central force” behind the “revitalisation” of the Old Spice brand.

FOX 13 has since learned “London Daily Post” is a website that charges users to publish articles. The listing even includes Massimine’s article as a sample of work that can be purchased.

"I will publish interview or article on google news london daily post UK website"

In response to an email asking if the Massimine article was fact checked, a representative for the website claimed it was.

“This article is provided by a guest poster, posting cost is 100$,” the representative wrote. “Send us real content on your life or organization (words limit 1000+). Our editor will check your content before posting.”

According to an article published by “BillboardWorldMusic.com,” Massimine is also responsible for an ad campaign that salvaged KFC’s reputation when they ran out of chicken in the UK.

“Massimine’s quick-witted humor rearranged the letters to ‘FCK,’” the article reads. “The idea proved to be a lesson in class and humility, and helped the fast food giant both save face, and perhaps the future of its market-hold against its competitors.”

“In short, Massimine is a titan.”

When KFC ran out of chicken, this ad was created by advertising agency Mother London. The company confirmed Massimine has since falsely taken credit for the ad.

Mother London is the advertising agency that actually came up with KFC’s “FCK” campaign.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed Massimine was not involved with the project.

“Christopher Massimine has never worked for Mother London, either as an employee or contractor,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to FOX 13.

Although “Billboard World Music” article links to legitimate Billboard Magazine social media pages, the site appears to be a spoof of the popular brand.

“To the best of my knowledge, that site is not associated with us,” wrote VP of Sales Joe Maimome in an email to FOX 13.

The "Billboard World Music" article further states Massimine was "the man behind" Coca-Cola's campaign for "Share a Coke."

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola confirmed the company has no record of Massimine as an employee.

"We would not be able to determine whether he worked on any Coca-Cola projects through an agency," the spokesperson wrote.

Christopher Massimine, who claims to be "the man behind" Coca-Cola's ad campaign for "Share a Coke," has never been a Coca-Cola employee.

The same article asserts Massimine worked on ad campaigns for Dos Equis (“The Most Interesting Man in the World”).

FOX 13 has not yet been able to confirm or deny Massimine’s involvement with Dos Equis via a Heineken spokesperson.

Massimine’s resume also identifies him as a "Media Direction and Communications Consultant" for Intel (Museum of Me), receiving a “CLIO Grand Award” and “NY Festivals Silver World Award” for his work on the projects.

Intel has not responded to FOX 13’s requests for comment.

Television

According to Massimine’s website, he was inducted into the Producer’s Guild of America Hall of Fame “for exceptional contributions to new media” in 2018.

The same claim appears in articles on the websites “Influencive” and “Grind Success,” both of which charge users for the publication of articles.

A spokesperson for the Producer’s Guild of America confirmed the information is false.

“He is not a member and was not ever a member,” the spokesperson wrote. “He was not inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame.”

"I will publish your article on influencive"

The same “Influencive” article states Massimine “shepherded some of reality television’s greatest hits like Jersey Shore and Paris Hilton’s My New BFF.”

Although FOX 13 has not yet been able to reach a representative with Jersey Shore for comment, the production company responsible for creating Paris Hilton’s My New BFF stated Massimine was likely not involved.

“I have no memory of him,” wrote Michael Hirschorn, an executive with Ish Entertainment. “It’s possible he was on the MTV side, and I was not aware of it. Also saying he ‘shepherded’ the series is inconsistent with the (claim) of him being an (associate producer), which is a support position.”

According to the “Grind Success” article, Massimine also worked on the “2012 reboot of Punk’d.”

Representatives with Punk’d production company Catalyst Media have not yet responded to FOX 13’s requests for verification.

Video Games

Although Massimine’s “day job” has nothing to do with video games, he claims to be involved in the creation of some of the most high-profile releases over the past two decades.

His resume identifies him as a “Media Direction and Communications Consultant" for Capcom, the creators of the popular Resident Evil series.

It further states he received two “Gold GMA Awards” for “Resident Evil 5” and “Resident Evil 6.”

According to an article on “GameZoneHub.com,” Massimine’s “most recent work includes Resident Evil Village,” a title that was released on May 7, 2021.

A spokesperson for production company Capcom confirmed Massimine has not worked on Resident Evil games.

“I’ve checked internally and can confirm that Christopher Massimine was never a Capcom employee and never held the position of Producer or had a Communications role within the company,” the spokesperson wrote.

FOX 13 sent an email to “GameZoneHub,” asking if they fact-check their articles prior to publication.

A representative for the website confirmed the article “was provided by Christopher.”

“I talk a lot about the importance of self-awareness in my work and daily life,” Massimine reportedly said in a supposed interview with the outlet. “When you’re trying to impersonate someone who’s succeeded in a particular way, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.”

According to the “Grind Success” article, Massimine is also a producer on the popular Final Fantasy series.

“Christopher Massimine is not, and has never been a producer for Final Fantasy,” wrote Bob Colayco, director of public relations for production company Square Enix.

Massimine’s name does not appear in the credits of Final Fantasy VII Remake or Resident Evil Village, despite IMDB listings that were removed after the publication of this story.

Massimine’s resume and website also state he has worked on other high-profile games, including but not limited to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series.

Although FOX 13 is in touch with Nintendo representatives, the company has not yet confirmed or denied Massimine’s claims.

Massimine's resume states he received a "MOBIUS Award" for the Activision game Skylanders' Spyro's Adventure.

The "Game Zone Hub" article claims he was on the "producing team of 2010's Goldeneye 007 Reloaded," another Activision video game.

There are no records showing Massimine's employment with Activision, according to the company.

According to the “Influencive” article, Massimine is “one of the world’s most well-respected trailblazers in gaming.”

According to an article published by “VeryAliGaming.com,” Massimine “has a resume that speaks for itself.”

According to the “Billboard World Music” article, Massimine is “undisputedly among the top 10 leaders in video gaming of our time.”

Clark Stacey, the CEO of game development studio Wild Works, spoke to FOX 13 about his thoughts on Massimine’s alleged work history.

“It is a small industry, and that resume would raise eyebrows with anyone,” Stacey said. “Any one of those roles would be a more than full-time job. It would be an all-consuming lifestyle. It would not be possible. It would not (even) be possible to drive an Uber and do that at the same time.”

Stacey is also a University of Utah alumnus, concerned with the school’s failure to properly look into Massimine’s background.

“It’s a publicly-funded university. I think it would be pretty concerning to anyone, as a taxpayer,” Stacey said. “It must be really frustrating that this wasn’t spotted earlier.”

Some of the titles Massimine claims to have worked on are likely produced exclusively in Japan, according to Stacey, including the Resident Evil and Legend of Zelda games.

“I’m intrigued to know who this person is and what other lofty titles they’ve managed to assume!” Stacey said. “If somebody was a producer and a core member of these development teams and was jumping around from company to company like that, I don’t think anybody would hire them.”

Film

According to various articles, Massimine is slated to work on "The Inventor,” a highly-anticipated film about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci.

“I did my research,” Massimine reportedly said in an interview with Grind Success. “I reached out to Robert (Rippberger) the leader producer, and in a nutshell, told him I absolutely love the story concept, and asked whether he would welcome another set of capable hands. We hit it off. We both share some very similar values."

Benoit Claro, the head of international marketing for mk2 films, told FOX 13 he is currently looking whether he can confirm or deny Massimine’s involvement on the project.

Massimine’s website states he also worked on the following films: “Amy (Oscar winner), 20 Feet from Stardom (Oscar winner), Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking, Piercing, Person to Person, An Elephant Sitting Still; TV: Boardwalk Empire (Emmy winner), Children's Hospital (Emmy winner), Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays (Primetime Emmy nominee), Night: the Official Tribute to Elie Wiesel.”

FOX 13 has not been able to confirm or deny the validity of these claims.

Music

Massimine’s resume identifies him as a “Media Direction and Communications Consultant” for "Atlas Communications (Recording Artists Department, campaigns included Jason Mraz (spearheaded 'I'm Yours' radio campaign), Amy Winehouse, Kings of Leon, Jenny Lewis)."

According to the “Billboard World Music” article, Massimine is a "literal Mastermind" who "has worked with leadership at just about every Major Record Label you can imagine."

“Massimine is one of recorded music’s best-kept secrets, that is, until now,” the article reads. “Massimine has done more in his short time on the Earth than most people accomplish in a lifetime, or let’s be honest here, several lifetimes.”

The article goes on to state Massimine has worked with Maroon 5 ft. Rihanna, My Chemical Romance, Amy Winehouse, Usher, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Rilo Kiley, and Lily Allen.

According to an article published on “CaliPost.com,” Massimine also worked with “the late greats” Aretha Franklin and Tom Petty on “branding and promotion.”

FOX 13 has not been able to confirm or deny the validity of these claims.

In an apparent interview with “Cali Post,” Massimine continued to flex his work with Jason Mraz.

“I hit the pavement hard for Jason and his team,” Massimine reportedly said. “It resulted with a very positive outcome.”

Similar to some of the other websites noted in this report (“Grind Success,” “London Daily Post,” “Influencive,” and “GameZoneHub”), FOX 13 learned Cali Post is a website that charges users to publish articles.

"Front page features on CaliPost"

Response from University of Utah

The University of Utah has declined an on-camera interview with FOX 13 to address the discrepancies.

Communications director Chris Nelson acknowledged FOX 13 likely knows more about Massimine’s work history than the University of Utah.

He sent the following statement via email:

“All applicants for jobs at the University of Utah attest during the application process that the information they’re submitting about their background is accurate. The same is expected for information included on a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). If information is found to be inaccurate an employee is given the chance to correct the information and provide an explanation as to why information was incorrect. Consequences can range from corrective disciplinary action up to termination of employment, depending on the situation.”

The University of Utah confirmed it hired Jonathan West with the search firm “Management Consultants for the Arts” to perform background checks on potential candidates.

West did not respond to multiple FOX 13 messages requesting comment.

“The firm employed to help recruit and identify candidates for this position was paid $35,928,” Nelson wrote. “Typically, when the university hires an outside company (search firm) to help in recruitment of executive positions the expectation and terms of the agreement are that the finalists sent to the university for review have been properly screened and the information about their backgrounds confirmed.”

After the publication of this story, West sent an email to FOX 13 indicating he was aware of the investigation.

"MCA makes it a policy to not comment on media inquiries relating to our clients," West wrote.

FOX 13 sent an email back, asking if the search firm can provide detail on its policies and practices in vetting candidates. West declined to comment.

Nelson confirmed employees have sent complaints about Massimine to University of Utah administrators.

“While the university doesn’t discuss personnel matters, I can confirm there is an ongoing review in this case,” he wrote.

Scott Driggs, the CEO of Driggs Search International, agreed to speak with FOX 13 as a neutral third party to give his thoughts on Massimine’s resume and the University of Utah’s poor job in vetting him.

He said his company takes the serious responsibility of thoroughly looking into the background of a candidate prior to recommendation.

“It’s not a good look for anyone. It’s not a good look for the search firm, for (Massimine), or for the university,” Driggs said. “It’s just a sad situation overall of someone trying to make himself look better than he is.”

Driggs said even a quick look at Massimine’s “unbelievable” resume should have raised “a lot of red flags.”

“I have seen companies rush at times to hire people when there’s a need,” Driggs said. “I would love to talk with (Massimine) to say, ‘What are you thinking?!’”

The first step, verifying Massimine’s education history, would have been “very easy” for a reputable search firm to perform, according to Driggs, resulting in an immediate disqualification of the candidate.

“Most likely, I would not even call him,” Driggs said. “Credibility would be lost if we can find even one discrepancy.”

According to Driggs, there is nothing necessarily wrong with paying for the publication of self-promoting articles, especially in today’s age of social media, so long as the claims are accurate.

“But it’s not any investigative research, like you are,” Driggs said. “These are people looking for money.”

Prior to Massimine’s hire, Christopher Lino served as managing director of Pioneer Theatre Company for multiple decades.

Massimine is currently being paid tens of thousands of dollars more than his predecessor.

Christopher Lino (left) gets ready to hand over the keys of the Pioneer Theatre Company to Christopher Massimine (right)
Christopher Lino (left) gets ready to hand over the keys of the Pioneer Theatre Company to Christopher Massimine (right)

According to a survey done by the Theatre Communications Group in 2020, Massimine’s annual wages represent tens of thousands of dollars more than the “average” or “median” salary for those who hold the same position.

Massimine has not returned multiple FOX 13 requests for comment.

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