INTERNATIONAL: Burson beefs up Asian presence with buyout of Korean partner

SEOUL: In a move which sees renewed confidence in the Asia-Pacific region, Burson-Marsteller has assumed full ownership of Korean partner Merit Communications.

SEOUL: In a move which sees renewed confidence in the Asia-Pacific region, Burson-Marsteller has assumed full ownership of Korean partner Merit Communications.

SEOUL: In a move which sees renewed confidence in the Asia-Pacific

region, Burson-Marsteller has assumed full ownership of Korean partner

Merit Communications.



Since 1996, Burson has held a 25% stake in Merit, which was founded by

Burson alumni Bill Rylance and Bryan Matthews in 1989. The 34-strong

firm generated about dollars 3 million in revenue last year, and is

projected to grow between 10% and 12% this year. Merit will now operate

under the name Merit/Burson-Marsteller.



Rylance and Matthews, both British, earned their stripes in the region

by handling PR for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and Merit recently

represented Korea in its successful bid to host the 2002 World Cup. The

firm handles work for the Korean government - including the Ministry of

Finance & Economy - as well as local clients and major multinationals

such as Coca-Cola, Dell and Qualcomm.



As part of the deal, Rylance will assume a new Hong Kong-based regional

role as MD, Asia-Pacific. Matthews will stay on as representative

director of Merit/B-M. Over the past six months, the firm appointed

Korean journalist Yong-suk Shin as chairman and Korean specialist Mike

Breen as managing director.



The move is the second major Asian investment by Burson’s parent company

Young & Rubicam in as many months. In August, Y&R increased its 50%

ownership in Tokyo-based Dentsu Young & Rubicam (DY&R) to a majority

position (PRWeek, August 9), effectively giving Y&R operational control

of all DY&R companies throughout Asia except those in Japan.



But Burson is not the only top firm to take a renewed interest in the

region lately. Just last week, GCI Group shifted one of its top UK

managers, Nicholas Walters, to Hong Kong to serve as chairman of GCI

Asia-Pacific, a new position (PRWeek, Sept. 20). And Ruder Finn recently

appointed veteran journalist Peter Witton to head its Hong Kong office

(PRWeek, August 2).



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