Leap, HudsonWide join forces to become Proper Villains

The combined firm is based in New York with offices in Boston and Atlanta.

Clockwise: Meghan Gardner, Jeff Monahan, Mike Jacobs, and Aaron Trubic.
Clockwise: Meghan Gardner, Jeff Monahan, Mike Jacobs, and Aaron Trubic.

NEW YORK: Leap and HudsonWide have merged to become Proper Villains, a full-service, boutique agency focused on luxury, lifestyle, and craft brands.

The firm, which launched on Tuesday, is headquartered in New York, with offices in Boston and Atlanta. HudsonWide, a New York City-based media and technology shop, and Leap, a Boston-based PR and branding agency, will not retain their brands.

Proper Villains is partner-driven and strategic in its approach, offering clients creative comms, digital, and media services, explained Meghan Gardner, formerly Leap’s partner and PR director, who will head up the new firm’s PR practice.

Aside from Gardner, the leadership team includes HudsonWide CEO Mike Jacobs, who will now be Proper Villains’ head of media; HudsonWide’s COO Aaron Trubic, who will serve as chief technologist for the company; and Leap partner and creative director Jeff Monahan, who will become creative director for Proper Villains.

Monahan has worked with brands such as Vera Wang, Bang & Olufsen, and Kestrel Aircraft; Trubic has collaborated with clients including Ralph Lauren, Luxottica, and Epic Records; Jacobs’ clients have included Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo!, Netflix, and Luxottica; and Gardner has helped clients from Nordstrom and Libratone to Yahoo!, Netflix, and WiTricity educate audiences and establish credibility through storytelling.

"The reason for this merger is we see a gap for clients," said Gardner. "They need all of these services [PR, branding, media, and technology] and they want these services under one roof, delivered by people who have been doing it for a long time, and who take a strategic approach to clients’ business."

There will be no layoffs due to the deal, and there are nine staffers onboard. Proper Villains plans to grow that number to 35 and is actively looking to hire, according to Gardner.

"If there is a spectrum of paid, owned, and earned, Leap has always come at things from the earned perspective, and HudsonWide has always come at it from the other," she said. "So the merger is going to make each of us better at understanding implications for clients and designing better programs."

The merger is not affecting either firms’s clients.

"The skills Leap brings to the table are an awesome fit for our clients," added Jacobs.

The firms made the decision to merge after working together over the past three months, sharing ideas, and helping each other from a technical perspective, according to Jacobs.

"This is the first time I have seen, from the ground up, a firm building out a team to handle all four separate disciplines in an integrated fashion," he said. "And the fact that we will all be sitting together at a table as we help our clients is unique."

The company got its name from Ocean’s Eleven, a movie about a gang of thieves who plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously.

At one point in the movie, Don Cheadle’s character in the film, Basher Tarr, says, "It will be nice working with proper villains again."

Gardner explained, "We felt that the name was fitting, not because we are thieves, but because we are experts."

The deal’s financial terms were not disclosed.

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