LOS ANGELES: Last week's firing of PMK/HBH managing director Leslee Dart by PR doyenne Pat Kingsley leaves the agency struggling with bad press and angry clients.
The surprise announcement came in a terse e-mail statement last Thursday and was quickly followed by media speculation. Dart, one of five partners, had been with the firm for 23 years and is considered one of the top entertainment PR people in New York, with A-list clients including Tom Hanks, Martin Scorsese, and Hugh Grant.
Dart also was considered to be the top candidate to replace the 72-year-old Kingsley when she retired, but Kingsley told PRWeek, "The fact of the matter is that it's two people wanting the same job, and [the firm] can only be run by one person."
The firing angered many on the PMK client list, as well as some studios that are in the middle of awards campaigns involving Dart's clients, such as Miramax's push for Scorsese's The Aviator. Producer Scott Rudin and others spoke openly in the media about their displeasure with the firing and said they would follow Dart - a situation that would harm PMK's image more than its bottom line, said industry experts. However, Kingsley said that Dart is bound by a non-compete clause.
Some industry insiders speculated that Dart's exit might signal that partner Simon Halls, who heads the firm's corporate practice, might succeed Kingsley.
Dart cofounded the agency, which was purchased in 1999 by Interpublic Group. In 2001, IPG also acquired celebrity PR shop Huvane Baum Halls and merged them to create PMK/HBH.