Finsbury US: Agency Business Report 2015

Heading into battle is simply routine at financial firms like Finsbury that deal in crisis and M&A. But last year, the firm won a whopper.

CEO Michael Gross
CEO Michael Gross

Principals: Roland Rudd, chairman; Michael Gross, CEO; and Stephen Labaton, US president
Ownership: WPP
Offices: Global: 12; US: 4 (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC)
Revenue: $40 million to $100 million
Headcount: Global: 206; US: 82

Heading into battle is simply routine at financial firms like Finsbury that deal in crisis and M&A. But last year, the firm won a whopper. It repped AstraZeneca in its defense of a takeover bid from pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer.

The Financial Times noted the agency’s role in successfully persuading public opinion as "one of the most striking aspects of the takeover battle," in an article now permanently bookmarked on Finsbury’s website. It was the largest transaction the agency worked on last year.

"We had more than 20 colleagues across New York and London working in close coordination on that deal, and it was a successful defense," says Michael Gross, who took over as CEO last year.

It was a busy year for the WPP firm, which undertook a rebranding in September 2014, returning its name to Finsbury from RLM Finsbury after the 2011 merger with Robinson Lerer & Montgomery; opened three new offices (Beijing, Moscow, and San Francisco); and relocated its New York headquarters across town.

The firm also handled the IPO of Citizens Financial, the largest US banking public offering in more than a decade, according to The Wall Street Journal; the Walgreens and Boots Alliance merger; Toyota settlements related to the accelerator recall issue; and worked with Delphi, maker of the faulty GM ignition switches.

New clients in the US include Duke Energy, Nielsen, and Old Mutual Asset Management. 

Gross calls the year a "successful one," but would not disclose revenue figures. Parent company WPP posted a 2.5% boost in overall PR revenue last year.

Cross-border business
Finsbury is eyeing further expansion in Asia as well as South America, where "more than a quarter of our business is cross-border," Gross adds.

US headcount fell by 10, while global headcount grew by six. Gross declined to elaborate except to say: "We’re just trying to be as efficient as we can."

Last July, the firm added Kal Goldberg as a partner in New York, focused on growing the M&A practice. Mergermarket named Finsbury the European PR Firm of the Year in 2014, but the agency is eager to bolster its American M&A credentials.  

"Financial comms and transaction support is one of the pillars of our business," says Gross. "In the US, we’ve got a great tradition, but we are determined to move up the league tables."

The hunt for a San Francisco leader continues as Doug Michelman left for Sprint in November after just two months in the post. The office services new clients Charles Schwab and Alibaba.

Gross says the firm expects to add "new partners" in 2015 as "it’s the senior talent that distinguishes the agency," he adds.

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