IMG Worldwide buys Catalyst PR, expands into communications

NEW YORK: Sports, fashion, and media company IMG Worldwide has acquired Catalyst Public Relations as it looks to expand into communications.

NEW YORK: Sports, fashion, and media company IMG Worldwide has acquired Catalyst Public Relations as it looks to expand into communications.

Catalyst will operate under IMG's consulting division, which offers marketing and sponsorship services for the sports and entertainment industries from 21 offices worldwide. Catalyst managing partner Bret Werner will continue to lead the firm as SVP and MD, reporting to IMG Consulting SVP and global MD David Abrutyn, a 14-year IMG veteran. Managing partners Bill Holtz and Ted Fragulis will change their titles to SVP and report to Werner.

Catalyst's 40 staffers and offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Charlotte will join the IMG network, with no layoffs resulting from the acquisition, Werner said. The agency plans to make hires in digital and creative in the first quarter, he added.

Catalyst will also retain its brand name. Werner said all three of Catalyst's offices will move into IMG spaces in coming months, but an exact date has not yet been determined. The firm won Small PR Agency of the Year at the 2012 PRWeek Awards.

“Catalyst has a great reputation in the marketplace, and we don't see any reason at this point in time to change the name,” Abrutyn said. “I suppose anything's possible down the road.”

The acquisition will allow IMG's consulting unit to integrate a communications offering into its business, including PR, digital, and content creation. The two companies have previously worked together on programs for brands such as Powerade and will continue to collaborate on some integrated initiatives for clients.

“We've worked with Catalyst on a couple of clients over the years, and have known [Werner] and his partners for a long time,” Abrutyn explained. “As we looked at where we saw the world going in communications services, digital, and content development, we felt that if we could offer that solution underneath the IMG umbrella it would enable us to offer better services to our clients.”

The deal will also allow Catalyst to expand globally and work with clients in key markets, including Europe, Asia, and Brazil, Werner said. IMG Worldwide has 80 offices in 30 countries.

“Our current client roster is looking for international, traditional, and digital communications programs, and we think having a presence in key markets is part of our natural evolution,” he said.

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Catalyst spun off from Taylor PR in 2006 after a restructuring. Some Taylor partners previously had equity in Catalyst, but Catalyst has always been an independent agency, Werner explained.

The Hollywood Reporter published a story last month saying that IMG would go up for sale this year after a cash-out by investors. However, Jim Gallagher, SVP and CCO at IMG, said “IMG is not for sale at this time, and we are not preparing for a sale. It's business as usual for IMG.”

Catalyst's 2011 revenue was just under $6 million, but it has since grown that sum to nearly $10 million, Werner said. The firm, which focuses on sports, active lifestyle, and entertainment, works with brands including ESPN, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Subway.

It is the second acquisition of a sizable independent PR agency in less than a week. Last week the Dentsu Network bought Mitchell Communications Group in the Japanese company's first step in building out a PR network of its own.

This story was updated on January 7 to clarify the agency's relationship with clients and to add information about its offices.

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