Makovsky's head of health moving to Finn Partners

His new job: bring together the firm's 30 healthcare staffers on various teams.

NEW YORK: Gil Bashe, long-standing health practice director for indie PR firm Makovsky, is joining Finn Partners, where he will seek to unify the firm's diverse health resources and grow its business in the biopharma sector.

The appointment, effective mid-June, was expected to be announced on Monday.

Like Makovsky, Finn Partners is independently owned, but is several times larger. The three-year-old firm's US revenue grew 12.5% last year to $48.4 million.

Bashe is charged with uniting its roughly 30 employees working on diverse health-related teams, including CSR accounts.

"We have developed a strong healthcare practice spread throughout our different offices, but have not had a leader to bring that all together. That's the opportunity that having [Bashe] join us represents," said Peter Finn, chairman and CEO.

In preparation for the departure, Makovsky announced on Monday morning a new leadership structure atop its health practice. It appointed Tom Jones and Alexandra Peterson, both SVPs, to head health, supported by Lee Davies, SVP, and Arielle Bernstein, group VP, as an extended leadership team.

Jones is a former executive director of PR for Novartis. Peterson, who joined last year, worked at MSLGroup, Ruder Finn, and Emanate.

"Over the years, we have developed an excellent culture of client service and we're grateful to [Bashe] for his many years heading the health practice," stated agency president Ken Makovsky, in the announcement. 

At Finn Partners, Bashe is tasked with mustering a group of staffers who are expert on the payer, provider, and patient advocacy and policy segments at a time when access to care and cost of care are the major concerns for pharma.

"Adding that level of conversation around why medical innovation has value is important for [all those] groups," Bashe told MM&M. "Not only will it help society achieve good patient care but it will help project wellness as an overall business mission."

Finn Partners is also looking to Bashe, whose background melds healthcare communications with private equity, to bring other healthcare shops into the fold.

"We have been active in acquisitions and will continue to be active in them, and not just in the health sector," Finn said. "I'm going to follow his lead in what he thinks are the best opportunities."

The agency launched in December 2011 when it spun off from Ruder Finn.

"When we first launched, we did not have much healthcare business," Finn recalled. Since then, it's pitched and won accounts, and been fairly acquisitive — half of its US business last year was due to acquisitions. One recent pick-up was New York-based gabbegroup's health and education practice in the fall.

These moves have brought in some significant accounts. The firm's roster includes MD Anderson Cancer Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, LifePoint Hospitals, Inc., American Kidney Fund, No More (domestic violence) and Hyundai Hope On Wheels (providing substantial grants to fund innovative pediatric cancer research) –but no pharma clients.

Finn cited the rationale that investing in a strong healthcare capability aligns with the firm's core values, one of which is to work as "citizens of the world." Moreover, from a business perspective, he acknowledged the opportunity for the firm to move into pharma, as well as its steady climb up the ranks of US-based indies and increasingly global presence.

"For any global firm to be credible and taken seriously, we have to have a serious healthcare practice," the CEO said. On an international basis, its revenue grew 19% last year to $52.8 million.

He is the most recent health executive to depart Makovsky. Kristie Kuhl, formerly EVP and deputy leader of the boutique health practice, left last year, joining Cohn & Wolfe's health practice.

This story originally appeared on Medical Marketing & Media. It was updated on May 18 to correct which agency Finn Partners spun off from, which was Ruder Finn.

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