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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - June 6, 2011 - Vol. 44 - No. 22 (download PDF version)

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Lewis PR chief operating officer Paul Charles has led a management buy-out of the firm’s travel division as the agency said it will focus on its core technology and consumer clients.

Charles & Perowne
Charles, Perowne

Charles is teaming with Lewis director Julia Perowne, a former hotel PR pro, to launch Perowne Charles Communications with about 10 total staffers. Lewis had teamed the two together in 2009 to build its travel and consumer business.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Lewis CEO Chris Lewis said the firm's strategic consumer plan does not include a niche focus on travel, although he said the business exceeded expectations. He said proceeds from the sale will be invested back into its consumer operation with another announcement to come shortly.

Lewis brought in Charles from Virgin Atlantic in 2009 in the COO post. He was director of communications for the airline and had been a Lewis director since 2005.

Perowne oversaw all travel accounts at Lewis. She was previously at The Massey Partnership, a U.K. travel PR shop.

Lewis, based in London and San Francisco, has handled clients like COMO Hotels and Resorts, Seasons and Maharajas' Express.


McDonald’s Corporation has promoted its VP of global external communications to fill the senior role vacated in January by Jack Daly, who died in early February after a battle with cancer.


The fast-food giant based in Oak Brook, Ill., said May 31 that 25-year veteran Bridget Coffing was named senior VP of corporate relations, serving as chief communications officer and overseeing all corporate PR functions from media relations to CSR and government relations.

Daly was 62 when he retired. He joined McDonald's in 1992 from its PR agency, GolinHarris. Coffing followed that same path through GH to McDonald’s 25 years ago.

Coffing reports directly to CEO Jim Skinner. In a statement, he said Coffing will strengthen the company’s efforts to “make a difference as a corporate citizen.”


The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, the global insurer, has added up to $300K in crisis communications and other support to its corporate policies, the latest move tying reputation to corporate insurance.

The move by Warren, N.J.-based Chubb follows the creation by WPP, Aon and Zurich Financial of a corporate reputation insurance policy providing up to $100M for PR, lobbying and advertising efforts.

Chubb said the added feature will help businesses manage a major liability crisis expected to generate significant adverse national or regional media attention. Examples given were a manufacturing plant explosion, hostage situation at a financial institution, tainted batch of products or workplace violence.

Sard Verbinnen & Co., Abernathy MacGregor Group and MSLGroup, as well as the risk and litigation consulting firm USIS/Kroll, are the firms approved by Chubb for crisis/PR services.

March Schussel, PR manager for Chubb, told O’Dwyer’s that the company has many clients that may not have a PR agency on retainer, so the policy will help them get a firm in place in the event of an incident.

Should they have their own PR counsel, they are certainly welcome to opt for that but the firm must be approved by Chubb to be eligible for the insurance coverage, he added.

In addition to PR, the crisis funding could go toward temporary living expenses, counseling and other related expenditures.


Doug Petkus, a veteran healthcare pro with more than 30 years of experience, is now senior counsel at Widmeyer Communications.


He was VP-corporate communications at Wyeth until its acquisition by Pfizer. In that role he served as chief corporate spokesperson, handled all financial/disclosure communications, dealt with product recalls/litigation and did media relations for Wyeth's Women's Health Initiative.

Before joining Wyeth in 1996, Petkus held PR positions at Abbott Laboratories, Schering-Plough and Hill & Knowlton (Procter & Gamble, Kodak, Wendy’s, National Hockey League). Most recently, he was running Petkus Communications Consultants.

Washington-based Widmeyer chalked up $10.6M in fees last year. That was up 8.4 percent from 2009.

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