New agency formed from merger of Carolina shops

RALEIGH, NC: After a year of working together, Richard French & Associates (RF&A) and West & Vaughan (W&V) have merged into a single firm, French/West/Vaughan, forming one of the Southeast's largest PR and public affairs shops.

RALEIGH, NC: After a year of working together, Richard French & Associates (RF&A) and West & Vaughan (W&V) have merged into a single firm, French/West/Vaughan, forming one of the Southeast's largest PR and public affairs shops.

An effort to brand the firm as a PR, public affairs, and brand-communications agency is underway. Richard French, president and CEO of the new firm, predicted the agency will bill $8.5 million in PR fees and issues advertising this year, up from $7 million last year.

W&V, formed in 1985, was acquired by RF&A in July 2001, under a new umbrella company, FWV PubliCom. W&V is primarily an ad agency handling clients such as National Bank of Commerce/Central Carolina Bank and Carquest Auto Parts.

French said they took time to merge the firms to establish a management structure while remaining autonomous, but the plan had always been to unite the agencies. There is no duplication of jobs, he said, so there will be no layoffs. Bill West becomes director of creative services, while Tom Vaughan becomes counselor-at-large.

French hopes to "expand our footprint in the Southeast," and put more resources into public affairs. As part of that strategy, last year RF&A hired Amanda Scoggins, a former coalitions director for President Bush.

French added that the firm is in active negotiations with some Hispanic agencies, and hopes to announce a merger or acquisition upon completion of due diligence in four to six months.

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