Merging companies give media fair crack at story

NEW YORK: Breaking a tradition of leaking merger news to The Wall Street Journal's Monday edition, the Abernathy MacGregor Group employed a slightly different media relations tack when handling the $2.8 billion merger of printing firms RR Donnelley & Sons (which prints PRWeek) and Moore Wallace earlier this month. For this deal, the firm worked with reporters from all the major business dailies on Sunday.

NEW YORK: Breaking a tradition of leaking merger news to The Wall Street Journal's Monday edition, the Abernathy MacGregor Group employed a slightly different media relations tack when handling the $2.8 billion merger of printing firms RR Donnelley & Sons (which prints PRWeek) and Moore Wallace earlier this month. For this deal, the firm worked with reporters from all the major business dailies on Sunday.

"The strategy was to have a level playing field for all the media," said Steve Frankel, MD at Abernathy. "To be candid, the Journal coverage was fine, but in return we got very balanced coverage everywhere else, and [journalists] had the opportunities to interview the CEOs."

For the merger, Abernathy represented RR Donnelley, while Moore Wallace worked with Citigate Sard Verbinnen.

According to Frankel, when trying to reach global constituents with M&A news, publications such as the Financial Times and The New York Times extend outside of the audience of The Wall Street Journal. Moore Wallace is based in Toronto, while RR Donnelley is based in Chicago.

Stories about the merger appeared on the front page of the Times' Monday Business section, as well as the front pages of the other two publications.

While this could be a strategy employed more often during friendly mergers, Frankel con- ceded, "If it's a complicated deal, there are advantages to the Journal."

In addition to wider coverage, this technique offered better message control and the opportunity to build on and foster relationships with the media, asserted Frankel. He said it also gives key players the opportunity to become more media-savvy and prepare for increased time in the media spotlight.

"Another reason to do it on Sunday is there's a good chance it would leak before then, and we'd rather have well-balanced stories out there," said Frankel.

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