Sard Verbinnen & Co buys UK comms and public affairs agency

International comms consultancy Sard Verbinnen & Co (SVC) has acquired UK-based Oakhill Communications for an undisclosed sum.

(L-R) Oakhill founders Craig Leviton and Lee Petar join the SVC Public Affairs leadership team
(L-R) Oakhill founders Craig Leviton and Lee Petar join the SVC Public Affairs leadership team

Oakhill's seven-strong team will co-locate in SVC’s existing London office and integrate into SVC's Public Affairs practice, expanding the practice to 30 people globally and taking the agency's UK workforce to 25.

Oakhill founders Craig Leviton and Lee Petar will join the SVC Public Affairs leadership team as managing directors and co-heads of the practice in the UK.

Founded in 2015, Oakhill provides public affairs and crisis comms advice to FTSE 100 companies, corporates in Europe and around the world, high net worth individuals, UK non-profits and trade groups. Its clients include Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Land Securities, and Playtech.

Leviton's previous experience includes being managing director of LLM Communications, which later sold to Financial Dynamics, where he became MD of its Public Affairs practice. After a stint as corporate affairs director at Gala Coral, he founded Heathcroft Communications, which sold to Teneo in 2013.

Prior to Oakhill, Petar worked at agencies including Weber Shandwick and Good Relations before becoming managing partner at Tetra Strategies.

SVC's chairman of Public Affairs, Bruce Haynes, said: “We are excited to continue growing the SVC Public Affairs practice and welcome Craig, Lee and their team to SVC.

"Craig and Lee have built a highly respected business with a great client base. They are known for their strategic thinking, government and regulatory expertise, and diligence in client service. Many of our US- and Asia-based clients are seeking our counsel for their operations in the UK, and likewise we have been advising UK- and Europe-based clients on their interests here. Oakhill increases our ability to provide seamless counsel and execution support to them all.”

SVC managing director, London, Jon Aarons told PRWeek: "We think it's the perfect time for us to be offering enhanced public affairs services because of the challenges that have never been bigger around Brexit and the coronavirus."

He said both SVC and Oakhill have "performed strongly" during the pandemic, adding: "This is a statement [of] our confidence in the future." 

SVC, which has its headquarters in New York, has seven offices in the US alongside offices in London and Hong Kong. The firm has over 200 employees, including more than 20 partners.

SVC topped the recent Mergermarket table of the number of M&A deals handled globally by deal count in the first half of 2020, and was ranked fourth by value of deals.

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