Huge PR Firm Shakeup Causes Numerous A-List Clients To Switch Agencies.
For the three ONTD'ers that are interested in PR, here's a summary of the changes before the main article:
PMK/HBH was the biggest and most powerful public relations firm in the world, until they merged with the marketing giant BNC under their conglomoerate Interpublic. Many of the publicists working for PMK/HBH thought this would be detrimental to their clients, so they left with them.
Clients that left PMK/HBH for ID PR
Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz
Clients that left PMK/HBH for SLATE PR
Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway,Demi Moore, Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman, Kirsten Dunst, Liv Tyler, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Daniel Craig, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jimmy Fallon, Harrison Ford, Woody Harrelson, Benicio DelToro, Hugh Laurie and Katie Holmes, Sam Mendes, Ang Lee, Ridley and Tony Scott, Michael Patrick King, the USA Network, Tom Ford, Akiva Goldsman, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Ryan Murphy, Working Title, Tribeca and Gore Verbinski, plus the SAG awards, the American Music Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and the Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
Clients that left PMK/HBH for VIEWPOINT PR:
Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Shia LaBeouf, Chris Pine, Katherine Heigl, Kevin James and Christian Bale.
What is being described to me as the biggest U.S. entertainment and lifestyle public relations and marketing company will be created on January 1st. This morning, PMK/HBH announced to its staff that it was merging with BNC. Both powerful brands are owned by advertising and marketing giant InterPublic, which gave its blessing to the union when the pair began negotiations about two months ago. "We went to them and said, 'This is what we want to do,' and they loved it," an insider tells me. I've learned that the combined PR firms will represent more than 160 staff and gross billings over $70 million. "The idea was that during these transformational times right now we wanted a game-changer," an insider explained to me just now. "It united two very powerful brands and will change the PR landscape in Hollywood." Certainly, it's a great fit in terms of skill sets and client rosters, with little duplication. (I'm told that is why the bigwigs aren't "anticipating" any layoffs.) BNC specializes in more marketing and corporate representation in addition to its roster of celebrities and TV shows and moviemakers, while PMK/HBH has more celebrities and TV shows and moviemakers than marketing and corporate representation.
Because this is Hollywood, everyone atop both companies have known each other for seemingly forever. "It's not like we're strangers," one insider tells me. "We've also been sister companies under the same parent." However, this merger is not without its personnel problems. In a surprise move, two major PMK/HBH founders, Robin Baum and Stephen Huvane (the "B" and the 1st "H" in HBH which was a longtime stand-alone firm before it merged with PMK), walked in this morning and announced their resignation from the firm because they didn't want to be part of the union. (Miscellaneous fact: Baum and BNC's Michael Nyman -- the "N" in BNC -- were once married 20 years ago.) I'm told that PMK/HBH found out from my post this morning that Baum and Huvane (brother of CAA uber-partner Kevin Huvane) were going to work with Ina Treciokas, the former ID PR bigwig who left in 2008 to start her own agency. (ID's Ina Treciokas Starts Own PR Agency.) Baum's high-profile clients include Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, while Huvane's include Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow. Why Ina's firm? I'm told Huvane and Treciokas both worked for Susan Geller’s PR firm in the early 1990s when they were coming up in the flackery biz, before he and Baum partnered and then joined Simon Halls, the 2nd "H" in HBH. Ina joined another former Geller flack, Kelly Bush at ID).
But the combined PMK/HBH-BNC client roster is large and deep and comprises some 350 clients, including (in no particular order): Matt Damon, Katherine Heigl, Courtney Cox, Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Simpson, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes, Whoopie Goldberg, Barbara Walters, Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Serena Williams, Brooke Shields, Shia LaBeouf, Chris Pine, Colin Farrell, Glenn Close, Zach Braff, Tracy Morgan, Shonda Rhimes, Bill Lawrence, House, Community, Mandeville Films, and the Emmys as well as Audi, Nintendo, Amazon, Target, Samsung, and MAC Cosmetics..
Also leaving PMK/HBH is Alan Eichorn, the New York based publicist, but my sources claim it had been in the works for some time and is not related to the merger. Today's PMK/HBH departures follow what I've already reported was the sudden and surprising 5 PM exit on Friday of Nate Schreiber, president of the high-profile flackery, who was upped a year ago January when Pat Kingsley stepped down from her CEO post to go it alone as a consultant. That's also when Simon Halls and Cindi Berger were made co-CEOs of PMK/HBH. Today, after my news broke, even rival PR companies were telling me "This merger makes a lot of sense. PMK, while an awesome brand, can use the management expertise that BNC provides." Meanwhile, those competitors are questioning the $70M figure. They note that gross billings include the out-of-pocket billings for events that the agencies run through their businesses. So, traditionally, PR firms are measured by fees, and that number is $25M-$35M. Meanwhile, Interpublic also owns Rogers & Cowan.
There's more fallout from the coming January 1st merger of PMK/HBH and BNC which I exclusively reported back on Monday. PMK/HBH EVP overseeing events Andy Gelb and his team including Shawn Purdy and Stephanie Samson are heading over to Ina Treciokas' PR shop to join other merger refugees Robin Baum and Stephen Huvane. Also Erica Gray out of NYC. Gelb is a masterful event PR/marketer known for his red carpet work on the SAG awards, American Music Awards, and Tony awards. Meanwhile, I'm hearing that Simon Halls will also be leaving PMK/HBH as soon as his contract is up. Another piece of info is that, although there's a new name, Slate PR, all these arriving flacks aren't really joining Ina's firm. Baum, Huvane, Gelb, etc will be working their clients individually inside her office space and with her support staff but everyone will be doing their own thing. "These independent contractors may be under one roof, but they dont intend to grow their business together," a source tells me. Now that the Hollywood PR shakeup has begun, the assessment is that PMK/HBH was toast anyway because it wasn't operating at a profit and wasn't being managed well. So BNC's uber-agressive leader Michael Nyman pounced. The newly merged company as of January 1st will be run by Michael Nyman and Chris Robichaud and Cindi Berger and Brad Cafarelli with Lewis Kay taking over the talent department (which was a big bone of contention with Baum and Huvane).
The shoes just keep dropping and dropping because of the merger between PMKHBH and BNC... The above news was just announced at the PMK/HBH staff meeting, according to my sources. Simon Halls resigned as PMK/HBH CEO, while publicists Jennifer Allen and Melissa Kates are leaving to form their own flackery. Simon Halls started HBH with Robin Baum and Stephen Huvane and that company merged with PMK in 2001. Halls took over as CEO when Pat Kingsley stepped down last year. Halls' clients include USA Network, Ang Lee, Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes, Working Title Films, TriBeca Productions, Jude Law, and Akiva Goldsman.
Still more PMK/HBH flacks are abandoning ship in advance of the merger of the newly named PMK·BNC joint company. Others have struck out on their own or joined the newly formed Slate PR. Which begs the question: What exactly is BNC left buying when all the shaking up finally stops?