Hass, who departed MS&L last year, will report to Edelman Asia-Pacific president Alan VanderMolen. His current firm MH Group Communications has also been acquired by Edelman.
‘Mark has successfully built and sold his own firm, then led the expansion of a regional PR firm into an international and global player, and, like all great plays, I expect his third act to be his best,' said Edelman president and CEO Richard Edelman.
Hass takes charge of one of China's biggest foreign agency presences, numbering 165 employees and generating revenues in excess of US$10m across two brands: Edelman and local acquisition Pegasus. His arrival follows the departures of China MD Martin Alintuck and Beijing MD Jeff Schultz in 2007.
Since then, the presence in the country has been overseen by Greater China MD Charles Lankester, who relocated to Seoul to become Edelman's Northeast Asia president in 2009. VanderMolen has acted as interim China MD for the past six months.
‘We haven't been innovating as much as I'd like us to innovate,' VanderMolen told PRWeek. ‘I'm not unhappy but I want to be the top agency in the kinds of work we're doing, the kinds of people we have and the competitive footprint we have. China's clearly one of the key places we have to execute.'
Hass joined MS&L in 2002 when the Publicis Groupe network acquired Hass Associates, becoming CEO of the network in 2005. VanderMolen dismissed the notion that Hass' lack of China experience constituted a risk. ‘I'm not in the least concerned because the people under him have great China experience and, with the exception of one, are all Chinese.'
Instead VanderMolen pointed to Hass' proven track record of managing a US$100m-plus PR business as a key differentiator. ‘We want people who can manage complex enterprises to scale. There's nobody in our industry managing a business in China who's ever managed anything in excess of $30m.'
Hass' appointment is accompanied by the arrival of two senior executives to national practice chair roles at Edelman China. Shirley Wong Walker arrives from MS&L China to oversee the firm's healthcare practice. In addition, MS&L Canada corporate and tech VP James Cook has been hired to head technology.
They join a management team that already includes Pegasus founder and president Steven Cao, Beijing GM Kevin Wang, and Shanghai GM Tony Tao – all of whom will report to Hass.
Prior to entering the PR industry, Hass worked as a reporter and editor for 16 years at The Miami Herald, The Syracuse-Post Standard, and lastly as assistant managing editor at The Detroit News, where his staff won the Pulitzer Prize.
‘I was attracted to Edelman because of its global footprint, independence and its second-to-none thought-leadership,' said Hass. ‘There is no communications market more dynamic, more poised for growth and more exciting for a PR professional to work than China, and I look forward to leading a team of extraordinary professionals who will build Edelman into the best-regarded and largest PR brand in China.'