Publicis Buys D.C.-based Crisis and Public-Affairs Shop Qorvis

Acquisition Gives Holding Company a Presence Inside the Beltway

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Olivier Fleurot
Olivier Fleurot

Publicis Groupe continues its acquisition spree with the purchase Qorvis Communications, a D.C.-based public affairs and crisis agency known for taking on controversial foreign government clients.

The agency will become part of MSL Group, Publicis Groupe's PR network, and operate under the name of Qorvis MSLGroup. Qorvis Founder and Managing Partner Michael Petruzzello will take on the role of president. He will also be the agency's North America practice director of public affairs and report to Renee Wilson, President of MSLGroup North America.

"This acquisition makes us much stronger in Washington, D.C., and a highly engaged player in top economic, public affairs and government issues on the global stage," said Olivier Fleurot, CEO of MSLGroup.

Publicis is the only large holding company without much of a presence in the tight-knit public affairs and communications scene in D.C. Among the top holding company-owned players in the region are WPP's Hill & Knowlton, Ogilvy, Glover Park Group and Burson-Marsteller; Omnicom's Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli; and Interpublic Group's Powell Tate. Independent PR giant Edelman also has a large public affairs operation in D.C.

Global access
Qorvis, a shop with around 80 executives, is best known for taking on controversial foreign government clients such as the Royal Embassy of Saudia Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Republic of Yemen (through UK-based PR agency Bell Pottinger) and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq. Other clients Publicis listed in a release about the acquisition include Cisco Systems, The Mayo Clinic, The United States Institute for Peace and the American Pharmacists Association.

"Qorvis' ties to numerous governments in emerging markets strengthen an important dimension of [the agency]," the company said in a statement.

For Qorvis it means access to a global network. "Today, markets and capitols are more closely linked than ever," Mr. Petruzzello said in a statement. "Issues no longer recognize national boundaries and the capability to manage issues and reputation demands global reach. With MSLGroup, we will be able to expand the limits of what we can do for our clients around the world."

Publicis' acquisition precedes its merger with Omnicom, slated for later this year.

MSL Group had $482 million in global revenue in 2012, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. The U.S. accounted for only $167 of the total in 2012. The network, which Publicis created in 2009 to oversee its communications shops, houses namesake shop MSL, corporate communications agency Kekst & Co and health group Schwartz, among others.

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