NEW YORK: Depending on who you ask, IR veteran Carol Ruth's departure from Edelman either constitutes an opportunity for the agency to refine its financial practice or a blow to the firm's financial PR capabilities.
Ruth parted ways with Edelman to launch her own communications shop, The Ruth Group. She tendered her resignation as chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Worldwide on July 15, two years after taking on a leadership position.
Edelman has yet to replace Ruth, but Tom Buckmaster, president of Edelman's New York office, downplayed her departure. 'I think that from the client's perspective, the transition will be seamless and uneventful,' he said.
Buckmaster, who will lead the search for Ruth's replacement, said he views her exit as an opportunity to reinvigorate the agency's financial practice, which relies heavily on investor relations: 'My vision is to expand from that IR base to a broader financial communications platform that includes IR but adds an M&A function and financial media element.'
Diane Perry, a Shandwick financial pro who once worked at Edelman, seemed to agree with Buckmaster's assessment. 'With a proper team in place, Edelman's financial practice can reclaim the prominence it once had,' she said.
Ruth is regarded as an IR expert of experts in the financial communications community. Nevertheless, since she took over Edelman's financial communication reins in May 1997, the unit has suffered its share of high-profile personnel departures.
Perry and Gregory Pettit left to join Shandwick's IR practice, while Elliot Sloane, who ran financial media at Edelman, left in October of 1998 to start his own agency.
In the weeks prior to Ruth's departure, the financial communications community was awash with rumors that she planned to leave Edelman. PRWeek contacted Ruth two weeks ago to discuss the hearsay, but Ruth denied that she was leaving the firm.
'I hadn't made any firm decision at that point ? it was very premature and not a done deal,' Ruth said. 'Running my own firm has always been my dream. Frankly, I don't think there is much competition for effective IR firms right now.'
The Ruth Group will be based in New York but plans to open offices in Chicago and Silicon Valley. It will provide IR, PR (including crisis and corporate issue management), financial and M&A communications.
Though The Ruth Group was launched less than two weeks ago, it has already established a strong West Coast alliance, partnering with DAI Communications of Anaheim, CA. DAI's accounts include The Dreyfus Corp. and Prudential Securities Investment Bank.