Weber launches new venture, W2 Group

WALTHAM, MA: Larry Weber, who helped build one of the world's largest tech PR firms, The Weber Group, and one of the largest global agencies, Weber Shandwick, is kicking off yet another venture.

WALTHAM, MA: Larry Weber, who helped build one of the world's largest tech PR firms, The Weber Group, and one of the largest global agencies, Weber Shandwick, is kicking off yet another venture.

Weber said the new company, W2 Group, will be "more of an ecosystem, that consists of different 'pods' of services."

W2's four pods are constituency management, or PR firms; next-generation web-based marketing services, such as online direct marketing; mobile- and cell-phone marketing; and healthcare and medical marketing.

Each pod could contain several companies, Weber said.

He already has the first two pods opened. W2 has acquired PR firm Racepoint Group, founded by Marijean Lauzier, who has known Weber for 23 years.

Lauzier was CEO at The Weber Group, and president and COO of Weber Shandwick. She will continue to serve as president and CEO of Racepoint, as well as CEO of W2.

For the second pod, Weber has started the Digital Influence Group, a company that specializes in marketing services within digital channels.

Right now W2 has three employees, Digital Influence three, and Racepoint 30.

W2 Group is not just about technology from the standpoint of working with technology companies. It's also about using technology to help clients communicate with their audiences, said Weber, who is financing the first phase of his new venture along with two private investors, whom he declined to name.

"In a world of blogs and chatrooms and instant messaging, how do you promote your brand in that world?" he said. "I think I really have my finger on what's next."

Weber's new project ends his relationship with IPG, one that spanned eight years and was defined by ambition and scale.

IPG bought the Weber Group in 1996 and that agency merged with Shandwick in late 2000, creating the world's largest PR firm (with $284 million in revenue for 2001). In July 2001, Weber Shandwick merged with BSMG.

But by mid-2001, after the tech fallout, IPG was announcing plans to cut 10% of its workforce and Weber said the PR firms he oversaw would cut over 100.

Once the BSMG merger was complete and its CEO, Harris Diamond, became CEO of the new Weber Shandwick, Weber transitioned into a holding-company role, as chairman and CEO of the now-defunct Advanced Marketing Services -- the operating group that housed several IPG marketing-services companies, including PR firms Weber Shandwick, Golin Harris, and MWW Group.

Last year, this group was folded and Weber became a part-time consultant for IPG. AMS was reincarnated as Constituency Management Group, which Diamond now oversees.

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