Hungry corporate raiders are circling the PR waters, eager to gobble up firms in an effort to cash in on the impending good times set for the now rebounding communications sector.
Observers shouldn't look for the usual suspects of WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic and Publicis Groupe (Maurice “The Magnificent” Levy, of course, can never be counted out) in the PR takeover game. New players such as MDC Partners chief Miles Nadal and old-hands like Peter Chadlington – who, as Peter Gummer, built Shandwick into a global entity – are the guys who will make the big acquisition waves.
Nadal, fresh from his acquisition of Elliot Sloane's Sloane & Co., told O'Dwyer's that PR is a prime growth opportunity for the holding company best known for creative ad shops like Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
Nadal ticks off the rise in social media, greater consumer skepticism toward corporations, increased brand engagement, more governmental relations, and all-intrusive 24/7 media coverage as reasons to get more involved in PR. He praises PR as the most innovative part of the communications spectrum and told this writer that any independent firm on O'Dwyer's rankings list is a possible candidate.
Nadal has had talks with some big household names (at least in the PR neighborhood) who would be nice catches for the Toronto-based holding company.
Chadlington is itching for his "second act." He remains restless following a $33.6M blockbuster acquisition of D.C.-based Dutko Worldwide in December. That deal, which put Huntsworth on the U.S. PA and govetnment relations map, is promised as the mere opening foray of the latest British invasion of America.
Chadlington is considering big and small acquisitions in key U.S. markets to fold under the recently fortified Grayling brand, which has fees in the $150M range. This time around, Chadlington plans to be more conservative when it comes to financing deals and plans to concentrate of the “soft issues” of training and culture that make deals work.
An acquisition drive is good news for PR, which was pretty much dead in the water during the past 18 months. Fresh blood, money and ideas can only bolster the professionalism and reputation of the PR business.