An agency buying back its independence – like Stratacomm’s partners just did from FleishmanHillard – is rare, but by no means unprecedented.
In 2011, a management team at MWW including founder, president, and CEO Michael Kempner reacquired the New Jersey-based agency from then-parent Interpublic Group.
Kempner told PRWeek on Tuesday afternoon that although the mechanisms of MWW’s split were "relatively easy," it is impossible to surmise what challenges Stratacomm will face without knowing the details of how integrated the firm was with Fleishman.
"I would expect, since they were likely planning this for some time, that the mechanics have already been taken care of and Stratacomm won’t skip a beat," Kempner said. "All of the mechanics a company does to run a business will all have to be separated out. Because we were not fully integrated, this was not an issue for MWW."
Stratacomm co-managing partner John Fitzpatrick told PRWeek on Tuesday that his firm "was then, and remains now, a separate company from FleishmanHillard."
Among the details Stratacomm will have to sort out are separating IT, potentially redoing employee and client arrangements, and getting new benefit plans, according to Kempner.
If there was any doubt which set-up Kempner preferred, he listed the reasons why he feels independence is better than the holding company model.
"For many reasons, being an independent agency is superior to being one of many in a large holding company. As an independent agency, you can focus on the only two things that matter: your employees and your clients. Your profit levels are your decision; how you staff an account is your decision; how you run your business is your decision," he said. "In a holding company, you start with the financials. As an independent, while you look at the financials, they are not a deciding factor in how you move forward."
Brodeur Partners also bought back a majority stake of its shop from Omnicom Group in early 2011 in a deal orchestrated by agency CEO Andy Coville and founder John Brodeur.
"The advantage is that we’ll be able to really return to our entrepreneurial roots and focus," Coville told PRWeek at the time. "What we really wanted to do was invest in new types of talent and new practice areas."