Joseph M. McCarthy, president of Minneapolis-based PR firm Northstar Counselors Inc. and founding partner and chairman of global PR network Pinnacle Worldwide, passed away on November 2. He was 84.

Joseph McCarthyJoseph McCarthy

A former high school history teacher, McCarthy held corporate communications positions at Mead Johnson, Eli Lilly and Pillsbury before joining department store chain Dayton Hudson (later Target Corporation), where he directed corporate communications.

In 1970, McCarthy launched his own public relations and public affairs firm, Northstar Counselors, which was headquartered in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata.

Four years later, he become one of the founding partners of Pinnacle Worldwide, the first international organization of public relations and marketing communications firms, which allowed smaller, independent agencies the ability to compete in global markets with major agencies including those owned by advertising and PR conglomerates, a model later adopted by competing networks such as PROI, Worldcom, IPREX and PRGN, among others.

Once one of the largest global PR networks, Pinnacle at one time counted 72 member agencies across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia-Pacific. U.S. member agencies included Allison+Partners, LVM Group and The Vandiver Group. McCarthy’s his wife Lynn at one time served as Pinnacle’s executive director.

The network suffered in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, however, losing more than a dozen member agencies between 2008 and 2009 alone, which left the organization with a roster of only about 40 firms by 2011. While Pinnacle showed signs of a rebound in 2012, doubling its South America presence and even adding a new market in South Africa to its ranks, the network’s financial future remained uncertain. O'Dwyer's in late 2012 reported that Pinnacle had closed its doors.

McCarthy was born on New Year's Eve, 1935, in Cincinnati. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in political science from Cincinnati’s Xavier University. Prior to becoming a high school teacher, McCarthy served in active military duty at the US Army Air Defense Center in El Paso, achieving the rank of Major. He had resided in Wayzata since 1967.

McCarthy is survived by wife Lynn and their children, Teresa (Steve Hanson); Brian (Jennifer); Patrick and grandchildren Maura, Ronan, Luke, Ciera, Quinn, Joseph, Conor and Molly.