Cohn & Wolfe shuts down Atlanta office

ATLANTA: Cohn & Wolfe is planning to close its Atlanta office -

where the agency was founded - on November 30, and fold its Washington,

DC office into Burson-Marsteller's public affairs practice at year's

end.



The closure is part of an effort by C&W to refocus on its historic

strength in consumer marketing, and to ensure, according to CEO Steve

Aiello, "that the agency is a nimble, responsive, unbureaucratic

agency."



Aiello admitted that, in this vein, C&W no longer sees itself as

competing directly with the largest agencies, which include its WPP

brethren Burson-Marsteller, H&K, and Ogilvy.



The decision was "difficult emotionally, but easy in business terms,"

said Aiello, adding, "it simply made sense in terms of making our

investments pay and refocusing on our responsive, measurable, collegial

qualities."



Nevertheless, Atlanta PR pros were shocked. For most of its 30-year

history, C&W was considered the vanguard of PR in the Southeast. Five

years ago, it was number one in the market, and last year was still

number five on the PRWeek Atlanta Agency Rankings list, with revenues of

$6.5 million.



The operation had hit a rough patch, however, suffering two straight

years of leadership and client losses. The departure of founder and

chairman Bob Cohn and former Atlanta chief Jim Overstreet in 2000 was

the first blow. It was followed by the defection of GM Tony DeMartino

and several top execs early this year.



Cohn sold the firm to Burson in the early '80s, and the headquarters was

moved to New York. "Over the years, (New York) never invested in this

marketplace as Ketchum has done so skillfully," claimed Cohn.



This is the third major-market C&W office to close. The Chicago and

Sydney, Australia offices were shut down earlier this year. Aiello said,

"I cannot guarantee that there won't be more restructures as we go

forward."



The two remaining Atlanta clients, Hilton and PGA of America, will be

managed out of the LA and New York offices, respectively.



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