Ruder Finn acquires healthcare internal comms firm SPI Group

SPI counts Bayer, Merck, Regeneron, LabCorp and Pfizer among its clients.

Kathy Bloomgarden

NEW YORK: Ruder Finn is buying New Jersey-based healthcare internal comms agency SPI Group.

Leaders at the acquiring firm first met SPI management in at the start of 2019. The deal took two months to close and the agencies signed a letter of intent over the summer, a Ruder Finn representative told PRWeek. 

"We have now closed the deal," said Ruder Finn CEO Kathy Bloomgarden. "It is all done and we became all one family a couple of days ago."

SPI — which counts Bayer, Merck, Regeneron, LabCorp and Pfizer among its clients — will keep its name, she said.

"We decided to do that, just as we did with the RLA Collective acquisition that we closed last year, because SPI is very well known to clients and of course we don’t want to lose the brand equity of the SPI name," added Bloomgarden.

SPI’s management structure also largely stays the same except the company’s founder and CEO Steve Goodman takes the title SPI founder and is transferring responsibility for daily operations to the management team.

That team includes Goodman himself, SPI’s senior managing director of communications strategy and editorial Ellen English, senior managing director of digital communications James Koppenal and COO Heather Norian.

"[Their management] remains constant with the titles and structure that they have today, but as we work more closely together we’ll see what happens," Bloomgarden said.

After the addition of SPI’s 30 staffers, Ruder Finn’s healthcare practice will employ nearly 250 people globally in 12 offices, according to a statement from Ruder Finn. Bloomgarden said she doesn’t expect any layoffs from the deal. 

"We’re in a building mode and are so thrilled to have the teams in place at SPI," she said. "And we’re seeing some pretty quick engagement in some of the efforts already underway for our clients."

Ruder Finn would not disclose revenues for SPI, but a spokesman said that after the acquisition, Ruder Finn expects to see $80 million of revenue globally this year. According to the PRWeek Agency Business Report 2019, revenue at the firm grew 4% last year to $70.5 million, compared to $68 million in 2017.

Bloomgarden said the SPI acquisition is intended to strengthen her agency’s internal comms and employee engagement offering in the healthcare sector.

"We have done a lot of great work in internal engagement in the pharma sector, but I really feel it is an increasingly important and critical element for companies to be successful," she said.

In August, Ruder Finn was hired by MetLife as its U.S. AOR for a corporate reputation and product communications remit. In June, the agency hired Ketchum’s Monica Marshall to serve as global lead of its new purpose practice, known as RF Relate.

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