Mike Fernandez reemerges as Llorente & Cuenca U.S. CEO

Fernandez was most recently U.S. CEO of Burson-Marsteller before its merger with Cohn & Wolfe.

L-R: Mike Fernandez and Jose Antonio Llorente
L-R: Mike Fernandez and Jose Antonio Llorente

NEW YORK: Llorente & Cuenca has hired former Burson-Marsteller U.S. CEO Mike Fernandez to serve in the same role at the Spain-headquartered firm, effective immediately.

Fernandez will split his time between New York and Miami and report to José Antonio Llorente, founding partner and chair, as well as Alejandro Romero, partner and CEO for the Americas. Fernandez will oversee 24 staffers. He has replaced Erich de la Fuente, who will continue as a partner and chair of Llorente & Cuenca U.S.A.  

De la Fuente joined the agency when Llorente & Cuenca acquired his Miami-based agency, EDF Communications, in late 2015. EDF was absorbed and did not retain its name.

"We have been working hard with [de la Fuente] on developing the business," said Llorente. "Having [Fernandez] on board provides us with more possibilities and capabilities."

In the U.S., Llorente & Cuenca’s primary focus has been working with U.S. clients who have an interest in Latin America, whether they already have operations there or are looking to build them, explained Fernandez.

"The key thing is refocusing the firm in the U.S. and better positioning it for growth and continuing to build the clientele that has an interest in operating in Latin America," he said. "We have the potential to do more work from a public affairs perspective. Regulated spaces and healthcare can be other opportunities, as well."

When asked about potential acquisitions, Fernandez said Llorente & Cuenca has its "eyes on some prospects" and conversations are ongoing.

"We plan to have a much bigger operation in the U.S.," said Llorente. "We could imagine that the U.S. operation will be soon as big as our European operation."

The agency posted €14 million in revenue in Continental European earnings last year, up 8% year-over-year.

Fernandez joined Burson in September 2016 as chair of its global corporate and financial practice, focused on spearheading client development, strategy, and new offerings for the group. He was promoted to U.S. CEO in January 2017, but exited early this year as WPP merged Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller into BCW. The combination formed the third-largest PR firm in the world by revenue with former Cohn & Wolfe leader Donna Imperato as its CEO and Burson chief executive Don Baer as chair. The combined agency saw 4% revenue growth last year to an estimated $691 million.

Earlier in his career, Llorente oversaw Spain for Burson.

"Even though we were periods apart, it is interesting he ran Burson in Spain and I ran Burson in the U.S.," said Fernandez. "We are connected together and looking to create something new and different."

Before that, Fernandez worked at Cargill for six years. As the company’s chief communications officer, he led comms, government relations, brand, marketing, and CSR for the food and agricultural giant. He has also held communications executive roles at State Farm, ConAgra, and Cigna, and earlier in his career, worked as press secretary for Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-SC).

Fernandez has been named to PRWeek’s Power List numerous times and was a member of the 2015 class of the PRWeek Hall of Fame.

Earlier this month, Llorente & Cuenca said it is restructuring along regional lines and making changes in its management structure. The agency is moving senior managers to roles that are more client-facing and restructuring its Latin American operations into three regions: north, Andean, and south. Each area will have its own management, finance, and talent structure.

Llorente cut a partnership deal this year with U.S.-based public affairs firm Lincoln Strategy Group. Llorente & Cuenca posted 10% revenue growth in 2017 to $41 million.

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