FleishmanHillard and Fishburn to merge UK operations to form FleishmanHillard Fishburn

Omnicom PR agencies FleishmanHillard and Fishburn have confirmed plans to merge their UK operations, creating a new entity called FleishmanHillard Fishburn with more than 200 employees and an annual fee income likely to be between £25m and £30m.

FleishmanHillard's Jim Donaldson and Fishburn's Ali Gee: Heading the newly merged operation
FleishmanHillard's Jim Donaldson and Fishburn's Ali Gee: Heading the newly merged operation

PRWeek reported in July that the two agencies were to share offices, fuelling rumours of an imminent merger, although these were denied at the time.

In a statement released today, the agencies said they anticipated the merger would be finalised before the end of the year, with Fishburn’s employees due to move into Omnicom’s Bankside premises in the next two months. FleishmanHillard arrived in the new offices in the summer.

The new name is set to be used from the first week in January. 

Jim Donaldson, currently MD of FleishmanHillard’s UK operations, will become chief executive of the new agency, with Fishburn agency head Ali Gee made deputy CEO.

Gee told PRWeek it was "conceivable that there may be a few redundancies" although "no decisions on this have been made yet". A new integration team formed from the leadership of both agencies will work on the structure of FleishmanHillard Fishburn over the coming days, she added.

The agencies declined to say how many of the 200-plus employees would come from FleishmanHillard and how many from Fishburn, and what the combined UK fee income would be. However, they said the merger would put them in the top 10 of UK PR agencies.

Estimates published in PRWeek’s Top 150 PR Consultancies report published in May said Fleishman had a UK fee income of around £17.5m and 175 PR employees, although this included around 50 people employed at its Bristol-based content marketing agency Specialist, which will continue to report to Donaldson. Fishburn was estimated to have a UK fee income of £12m with 110 PR staff.

Gee said informal discussions about a link-up had taken place over several years. She said: "Towards the back half of this year, certainly since autumn, we’ve begun speaking of that more formally and the decision was one that was driven by both Jim and I because we felt FleishmanHillard and Fishburn have very complementary skills sets.

"Specifically, Fleishman is the largest global PR network and that is something we just don’t have [at Fishburn]. We wanted to be able to offer global capability to our clients. Equally, Fishburn is very strong in the UK market so that was something that was very appealing to Jim and his leadership team."

The statement said: "The merger will provide Fishburn’s clients with access to a world class international network while also enhancing FleishmanHillard’s brand marketing, corporate and public affairs practices in London. Fishburn will also be adding its market leading corporate reporting offer to the mix."

Gee said there was "not the degree of overlap that you might expect" with the two agencies’ clients, adding: "We don’t think that will be a problem." FleishmanHillard’s major clients include SAP, Tata Consulting Services, Danone Nutricia, Starwood Hotels and Philips, while Fishburn represents Shell, EE, Virgin Trains, Gatwick Airport, AB Sugar, Lendlease and G4S.

The integration will also see Fishburn’s "fledgling" office in New York merged with FleishmanHillard’s US business.

Donaldson denied that the move was reflective of a general move towards integration across Omnicom: "This isn’t an Omnicom thing, this is a Fishburn and a FleishmanHillard thing that grew out of talks we were having together."

Donaldson said: "In a rapidly changing and highly competitive market like the UK, this combination of skills and practices will provide clients with an industry-leading team. The synergies between our two agencies are obvious - we bring our fabulous global network to Fishburn and they bring a great track record and an excellent team to enhance our offer in London. This is a really exciting day for all of us and I can’t wait to get started."

Gee said: "Our agencies have a great heritage, fantastic clients and some of the best people in the communications business. Importantly, we share the same culture and values, too. Together, we will be able to offer an even more comprehensive service and deeper expertise to our existing and future clients."

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