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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - August 29, 2011 - Vol. 44 - No. 33 (download PDF version)

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NEWS OF SERVICES _______________


VMS, the 30-year-old media monitoring company which was a dominant player and icon in the PR services sector for three decades, shut down operations and laid off its entire staff Aug. 26.

VMS ad from 1995

Staffers were told of the news during a noon meeting and conference call today from New York. Company executives spent Aug. 25 weighing options after VMS’ primary lender, Capitol One, said Aug. 24 that it would no longer fund operations.

The company is believed to have filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy, although that has not been confirmed.

CEO David Stephens, who took over for Peter Wengryn last fall, told staffers that high costs from rent agreements, coupled with VMS' lack of market share in the social media monitoring space were among factors contributing to its downfall.

“I think people are shocked,” Darren Drevik, communications and marketing director of VMS who joined the company last year, told O'Dwyer's.

Staffers were paid through last week but were not offered severance or ongoing health benefits, said Drevik. Unresolved payments like expenses, as well as communications with customers, will be handled by a trustee to be appointed by a bankruptcy court.

In a statement to customers posted on its website, VMS said its board “with the input of qualified professionals have elected to close VMS.

“Unfortunately almost all VMS personnel have been terminated effective today. The decision has been made after exhaustively evaluating many different options and with sadness for our loyal staff and customers,” said the statement. “At some point in the very near future a Trustee will be appointed to liquidate VMS. We anticipate the trustee will make future communications with customers. VMS thanks all customers for their loyal support.”

Tapes Were Industry Staple

VMS, or Video Monitoring Services of America, provided videotape copies of news clips which were a PR industry staple for decades, but the evolution of digital video made for cheaper alternatives and a rise in competition from companies like Vocus, Cision and Critical Mention, among several others, in recent years. VMS also monitored advertising content.

Wengryn joined VMS as its chief financial officer in 1999 and was tapped as CEO three years later. He handled the company’s transition from providing tape of broadcast clips to a services and consulting business steeped in monitoring.

The company was founded by Robert Cohen in 1981. He died in June at 82.

EVENT: Sep. 15-16, Alexandria, Va.; IABC 2011 Employee Communication Conference, “Creating and sustaining an engaged workforce,” Information and registration:

PEOPLE __________________________



Sabrina Guttman, senior VP and GM, Axicom, re-joins Burson-Marsteller, San Francisco, as deputy practice chair of its U.S. technology practice. She was at B-M from 2005-07 handling the H-P account and now reports to chair Jim Goldman. She was VP of corporate comms. at Business Objects through its acquisition by SAP and managed comms. for Sun Microsystems. Earlier stints included Alexander Ogilvy PR and IBM.

Celeste Conklin, communications and PR manager, Hospice of the Western Reserve, to Liggett Stashower, Cleveland, as an A/S handling ShurTech Brands and Boral North America. Pete Grasso, a former LS intern, returns as an A/S to manage the Robert Bosch Tool Corp., Jnauff Insulation and ShurTech Brands accounts.

Dykes, Russo
Dykes, Russo

Mary Dykes, A/E, Idea Associates, to Jackson Spalding, Atlanta, as an A/E handling Primrose Schools. Louise Russo, web marketing manager, Georgia Tech College of Computing, to JS’ creative digital team.

Loretta Prencipe, who handled PA for the Dept. of Energy's renewable power unit, to MSLGroup, Washington, D.C., as a VP. She will work in the Publicis unit's energy and environmental practice. Previously, she was communications director for SunEdison, a solar power company. Prencipe reports to Shelia McLean, senior VP.


Maeve Gallagher, formerly of DKSH and Citigate Dewe Rogersson, UBS and Barclays Capital, to global head of media relations for Zurich Financial Services Group.


Steven Behm, a five-year Edelman veteran, has been named to lead the firm's Atlanta office as general manager, reporting to Matthew Harrington, CEO, Edelman U.S. Behm, previously a VP at Dittus Communications, built Edelman's Southeast crisis, risk and public affairs practice. The office handles UPS, Newell Rubbermaid, Georgia- Pacific, and GE Energy, among others.


Garet Hayes to senior VP, Hope-Beckham, Atlanta. She joined in 2005 and handles Aaron's, Comcast and Greenberg Traurig. Also, Allison Winters has joined the firm as assistant A/E after an internship. Tiffany Miller to A/S, R&J PR, Bridgewater, N.J. She joined in 2006 and leads the firm's B2B team.

Charles Smith, former Olympian, professional basketball player and tech entreprenuer, to the board of advisors of New York-based brand consultancy Zito Partners.

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