FTI Consulting 'formally closes' Beijing office, Moscow office MBO revealed

FTI Consulting no longer has a formal presence in the capitals of Russia or China, PRWeek has learned.

FTI staff were told last week that it is "formally closing" its small Beijing base, which was comprised of staff from its Strategic Communications business, as well as from its GRIP (Global Risk & Investigations Practice) unit. The business said it would be concentrating its efforts on Shanghai.

PRWeek can also reveal that the firm's Moscow office, which was solely Strategic Communications staffers, was subject to a management buyout (MBO) led by Oleg Leonov, the firm's head of Russia. It still works with the business as part of its affiliate network.

Chinese changes

FTI staff were sent an email last week by Mark McCall, global COO for its comms business, which said: "I wanted to let you all know that, in conjunction with GRIP, we have made the difficult decision to consolidate our Mainland China presence by committing to a single office in Shanghai and formally closing our Beijing corporate office.

"While we will no longer have an office front in Beijing, we will retain a presence through our two senior leaders, [senior director] Joanna Jiang and [director] Kevin Ma, who will work remotely there."

McCall's email goes on to say that the firm's "commitment to China and the Asia region remains strong" and that some client responsibilities will be transferred to teams in Shanghai or Hong Kong.

Two other Beijing-based comms staffers, Peter Folland and Weina Chen, have left the business in recent months. Several GRIP staffers have also left.

In addition to Jiang and Ma, one other Beijing comms specialist, Jenny Ding, is still listed on the people section of FTI's website. The site also lists 12 individuals working for the firm in Shanghai, of whom two are comms practitioners.

A spokesman for the firm told PRWeek: "We remain committed to working in Beijing, and have moved to a smaller office as a result of the closure of another part of the business that previously co-located with our Strategic Communications segment."

The news follows FTI's declaration in June that nearly 200 staff, predominantly in the US and Asia, would be let go. FTI has in excess of 4,500 staff globally, with comms accounting for around an eighth of headcount, or 647 people, at the end of 2016, according to PRWeek's Global Agency Business Report.

Moscow move

In a separate development, PRWeek has learned that FTI's Moscow office went through an MBO in the spring.

This was lead by Leonov, who had been with the company since 2007, but a source close to the company suggested the idea was initially aired by FTI itself.

PRWeek understands that around 15 staff worked in the office. All were comms specialists.

The FTI spokesmand said: "While the team in Moscow are no longer formally part of FTI Consulting, we are continuing to work with them as an affiliate office".

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