Edelman acquires Basilinna, rolls out boutique advisory firm

Edelman Global Advisory will be led by Basilinna founder and CEO Deborah Lehr.

Richard Edelman said Edelman Global Advisory is positioned as a "boutique" shop. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Richard Edelman said Edelman Global Advisory is positioned as a "boutique" shop. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

WASHINGTON: Edelman has launched Edelman Global Advisory, a consultancy that will be part of the DJE Holdings network, via its acquisition of Washington, DC-based strategic consulting firm Basilinna. 

The new shop will provide tailored advisory, PR and public affairs services to businesses, governments and nonprofits. Potential clients will include organizations seeking to enter markets, expand in existing ones, better understand regulatory changes and political risk and develop strategies to build ties with essential stakeholders.  

“Look at the involvement of government in the economy, which is a result of the pandemic, and it has continued,” said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, when asked about the timing of the acquisition. He added that the firm’s “brand and corporate clients need this.” 

Deborah Lehr, founder and CEO of Basilinna, will serve as managing partner and CEO of Edelman Global Advisory. She will report to both Edelman and Katie Burke, chief strategy officer and global chairman of practices and sectors.

Lehr echoed Edelman’s comments about government involvement in the private sector and noted the regulation of new technologies.

“When the world is changing, when governments are more involved in business today, when expectations of businesses and CEOs have changed, as we see governments themselves looking for advice and counsel...there is an opportunity for a global advisory firm,” said Lehr.

Lehr’s career has included stops at the National Security Council, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Commerce Department and the law firm Mayer Brown. She has also served as senior adviser to the chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch; senior director of emerging markets at NYSE Euronext; and vice chairman at think-tank the Paulson Institute, which is focused on U.S.-China relations, green finance and economics. 

“[Lehr] is ideally suited to be our head of public affairs,” said Edelman. “She’s had experience in the government, experience running a business and she is a complete cultural fit.” 

Edelman’s public affairs practice, which earns $30 million in revenue and has about 140 employees, is being moved into Edelman Global Advisory. Edelman called the new consultancy a boutique firm, and said that positioning will help it compete. 

“We are competing directly with the public affairs boutiques such as APCO [Worldwide], McLarty [Associates] and Albright Stonebridge, because that is the nature of the business,” said Edelman. “If we competed as Edelman, it wouldn’t be as effective.” 

The new firm will not include Edelman’s public sector work or staffers. Tony Silva, who joined Edelman from Ogilvy last month as public sector GM, will stay in Edelman’s Washington, DC, office. 

Other Edelman Global Advisory executives will come from a mix of the two firms. Basilinna founder and COO Leigh Wedell will serve as co-COO and managing principal, as will Gurpreet Brar, COO of Edelman’s public affairs practice, who will also lead the firm’s Europe region and India team. Shanghai-based Gracie Sun, Basilinna’s China president, will serve as vice chair for APAC.

The core leadership team will be supported by Edelman public affairs leaders, including Aaron Guiterman as chief innovation officer and global chair of digital, Ian McCabe as chair of APAC, Darcy Walsh as chair of Canada and Gonzalo Plecity as chair of Latin America. About 100 public affairs specialists from the Edelman and Basilinna networks are also on the team.  

Edelman Global Advisory is based in Washington, DC, and has offices in New York, Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, Dubai, Tokyo, Mexico City and Beijing.

Edelman has committed an initial investment of $10 million toward key hires and the expansion of Edelman Global Advisory into new markets. Edelman added that acquisitions are on the horizon for the new firm. 

Edelman acquired Basilinna on Friday after working together as partners since December 2019. The deal’s financial terms were not disclosed.

Basilinna is bringing clients to Edelman; Lehr declined to name them.

“We look at our development as an A-frame house,” Edelman added. “The corporate and public affairs sides need to equally be invested in. We want to be advisers to the C-suite, whether in public affairs or financial relations. We have had great success on the financial relations side and we want the same for public affairs.”

Edelman’s revenue dipped 6% last year to $840 million, including a 4% decline in the U.S. to $530.8 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2021

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