Golin/Harris financial PR arm begins merger talks

Golin/Harris Ludgate's financial operation is in talks about a

possible merger with the financial PR arms of IPG sister firms Square

Mile and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.



Reg Hoare, Golin/Harris financial PR managing director for the past four

years, is understood to have established contact with Square Mile

founder Tim Jackaman about the possibility of folding his 20-strong

operation into the recently merged financial PR team of Square Mile and

WSW.



That division is currently without a CEO - WSW's incumbent Charles

Lankester left three months ago - but sources refused to confirm whether

Hoare's plans involved placing himself in the role.



The agency's overall MD for the EMEA region, Sue Farr, said: 'It would

be surprising if IPG companies and brands were not discussing how best

to realign or not following the takeover of True North (which owned

Square Mile before being acquired by IPG this summer).'



She refused to comment on speculation concerning individual staff

members or teams, but said: 'I first raised the possibility that IPG

should consider the future of all its brands in May.'



News of merger talks comes at a sensitive time for Golin/ Harris in

London, since its UK CEO Robin Hepburn was this week made redundant.



Hepburn is credited by some colleagues as being 'the glue that held the

firm together' throughout a spate of staff departures including that

former PA MD Stephen Lock and three senior colleagues.



He is in negotiations with the agency about the terms of his

departure.



They are thought likely to include a substantial payout in exchange for

a clause stipulating a lengthy non-compete period.



He reported to Farr, who joined the company following a shake up in the

comms department at her former employer, the BBC.



She will now take a more 'hands-on' role in the running of the UK

business in the absence of a dedicated CEO.



The agency refused to confirm why it had axed its top UK post, but

sources suggested a desire to 'flatten the management structure' and

cope with the economic downturn were the primary causes.



Hepburn was promoted to the UK CEO post in October 1997, having joined

what was formerly Ludgate Communications in 1996 as a director with a

brief to head its City PR business.



He joined the agency after a three-year stint at the then Shandwick

Consultants, during which he oversaw PR for the demutualisation of the

Halifax building society and for the demerger of British Gas.



Prior to that he spent six years at the then Dewe Rogerson after a

ten-year spell in corporate banking at Barclays.



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