ICR acquires Westwicke Partners

ICR is doubling down on healthcare with this latest acquisition following its deal with Continuum Health four months ago.

Tom Ryan
Tom Ryan

NEW YORK: ICR has acquired healthcare financial communications agency Westwicke Partners.

Effective January 2, ICR combined its healthcare IR and PR practice with Westwicke. The newly formed entity – Westwicke, an ICR Company – falls under the leadership of Westwicke founders Bob East and Mark Klausner, who will serve as managing partners.

Some details of the deal were undisclosed, including the price and whether East and Klausner have an earn-out period.

However, ICR CEO Tom Ryan said "they have the incentive through a variety of methods to continue to grow the business and integrate PR and our other services into what they do, the biggest incentive being equity ownership in the combined entity."

ICR ended 2018 with $68 million in revenue, a 9.3% year-over-year increase, and added more than 100 new clients, according to managing partner Michael Fox. Westwicke, which has a staff of 29, raked in $10 million. All of Westwicke’s more than 100 clients are joining the ICR roster, Ryan said.

Founded in 1998 by a cadre of sell-side analysts, including Ryan, ICR prides itself on its Wall Street credentials. Westwicke was launched in 2006 on a similar premise – Ryan called them the "ICR of healthcare."

That cultural alignment was part of what made Westwicke an attractive acquisition target. Shortly after ICR sold an undisclosed stake to private equity firm Investcorp, Westwicke was their first phone call.

"We’ve known them for a really long time and we knew exactly what they do," Ryan said. "It’s not like you’re combining an IR firm with some kind of creative agency, where the bosses of the creative agency don’t understand what IR is."

Westwicke has clients in life sciences, medical technology, and healthcare services, with offices in Baltimore, Boston, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Ryan noted that healthcare has always been a challenge for ICR.

"It’s the one industry vertical where we’ve been lagging," Ryan said. "With this acquisition, we leapfrog to the top."

For ICR, which reaps a significant portion of its business from IPOs, its increased investment in healthcare could prove lucrative. Ryan said he remains bullish on healthcare’s IPO prospects despite the economic slowdown seen over the past few weeks, sparked by rising interest rates.

For the smaller and more specialized Westwicke, this deal represents the chance to tap into ICR’s broader services, such as its 75-person PR team, a dozen of whom are dedicated to healthcare.

Also, Westwicke will now have capabilities in crisis, digital branding, business financial media, and governance advisory, which ICR launched in November 2018.

"For them, it was a decision of, ‘Do we build up to these services internally over the next decade? Or do we combine with ICR and have all these services available on day one?’" Ryan said.

Westwicke representatives were not immediately available for comment.

The move marks ICR’s latest efforts to establish itself in healthcare after it brought on Continuum Health Communications in what Ryan called an "acqui-hire." Its founder and CEO, Terri Clevenger, joined as MD. Clevenger and the rest of ICR's healthcare PR staff will be part of the Westwicke brand, but they will continue to report to Fox.

Since selling a stake to Investcorp, ICR has pursued an aggressive expansion, launching a governance advisory practice and an executive advisory and corporate transformation practice. In addition, ICR found a new chairman for ICR Capital in Frank Maturo, the former co-head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s equity capital markets group.

Editor's note: This story was updated on January 3, 2019 to correct who Terri Clevenger is reporting to.

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