No merger is without its casualties, and the combination of two
major agencies like Fleishman-Hillard and Porter Novelli under one brand
was bound to cause some discomfort.
But Barry Leggetter’s departure will be unsettling for
Fleishman-Hillard, which has not had a great track record with its UK
management. Prior to Leggetter, who was widely regarded as a safe pair
of hands, the firm had run through several combinations in fairly quick
succession without apparently finding a winning formula. The agency must
move swiftly to fill the position to avoid further uncertainty.
Leggetter’s departure is said to have hinged on the issue of whether the
UK firm should continue report to St Louis as he wanted, or to the
European HQ in Paris.
While it may not have suited Leggetter, there is a lot of sense in
placing the UK office under the European umbrella. F-H is dwarfed by its
new sister agency Countrywide Porter Novelli, and, despite recent
successes, has made relatively slow progress in the UK.
The transatlantic PR axis remains hugely important for those running
global networks. But for those running F-H UK, it will almost certainly
be better to be a big player within the European network, than a small
satellite of the worldwide headquarters.