Apex Communications will aim to leverage the client base of Euro RSCG's network of advertising and PR agencies.
Havas sold its PR and public affairs business Grayling, which includes Westminster Strategy, to Huntsworth in a £10m deal last year (PRWeek, 19 March 2004).
Owen was special adviser to Straw from 1993, comprising four years in opposition, four at the Home Office and four at the Foreign Office, in the run-up to and during the Iraq conflict. He left Straw's side after the May general election, and has since freelanced for a small number of PA consultancies.
'There's a gap in the market for a serious and credible consultancy that combines a genuine understanding of how government works with a sound grasp of the importance of strategic communications to organisations,' Owen said.
Biss Lancaster chairman Graham Lancaster, who has been involved in the setting up of Apex and will oversee its development, said: 'I'd be disappointed if it doesn't have 12 to 15 staff at the end of the first year.'
It is understood that Owen and two soon-to-be-appointed executive directors will together own a significant minority stake in the venture. Prior to his 12 years with Straw, Owen was a regional newspaper journalist in the North-West.
French marcoms group Havas has PA offerings in Paris and Brussels, which trade as Euro RSCG C&O, and the Euro RSCG Magnet lobbying business in Washington.
Aside from the Euro RSCG family of businesses, Havas owns financial PR firm The Maitland Consultancy and Media Planning Group, and retains a minority stake in WCRS, the UK advertising agency that went through a management buyout last year.