NEW YORK: Citigate Sard Verbinnen and Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher are in the middle of a shopping-mall stand-off that has nothing to do with last-minute holiday shopping.
The two financial communications firms are on opposite sides of the hostile-takeover battle between mall landlord giants Taubman Centers and Simon Property.
Simon is attempting to snatch up Taubman, which appears especially vulnerable with Taubman family patriarch Al Taubman currently in jail for his role in an auction-house price-fixing scheme from when he was chairman of Sotheby's.
Simon has retained Sard, and Taubman has hired Joele Frank to stave off the unsolicited bid.
Such grudge matches offer PR firms a unique chance to go head-to-head, even as external market forces often determine the final outcome.
Although it's not unusual for firms to cross paths multiple times in the lucrative but clubby world of transaction PR, the mall battle is the third time Sard and Joele Frank are meeting in a high-stakes public contest in the past 18 months.
In 2001, Sard helped Computer Associates win a proxy fight against financier Sam Wyly, who was represented by Joele Frank. Months later, Joele Frank helped Hewlett-Packard scion Walter Hewlett mount an impressive but ultimately unsuccessful long-shot attempt to scuttle the HP-Compaq merger. Sard represented HP in that clash.
Sard CEO George Sard did not comment on the mall scrap, but told PRWeek: "It is especially gratifying that our recent victories on behalf of Hewlett-Packard and Computer Associates came against such a high-quality competitor."
Joele Frank executives declined comment.