Pincus in talks with holding companies

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Leading investor-relations practitioner Ted Pincus, who sold his agency-The Financial Relations Board-to Interpublic Group of Cos. in 1999, is considering setting up again and is talking to three major holding companies and a variety of private-equity groups about backing his venture.

Mr. Pincus, an independent consultant for McDonald' Corp., said he had been approached by a number of his former staff members about regrouping. The Financial Relations Board is currently a unit of Interpublic's Weber Shandwick. "I've had discussions with other PR conglomerates over the last few weeks," said Mr. Pincus, who is also a financial columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He refused to name the holding companies concerned, but confirmed Interpublic was not one of them.

The Financial Relations Board, which had fee income of $32.5 million and around 300 staff at the time of its sale, was acquired by True North Communications' PR unit BSMG in January 1999. The company counted Salon.com and The Street.com as clients. But as True North merged with Interpublic in 2001 and BSMG became part of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, the company shrank in size-partly due to a dramatic reduction in merger-and-acquisition activity on Wall Street-and its dot-com clients disappeared.

Asked whether it was the right environment to launch a new agency, Mr. Pincus said: "I feel the same conditions are present today that were present in the early '80s. Stocks are depressed, shareholders are fickle, talent is available and resources have undergone significant attrition. There have been layoffs on the corporate and agency side."

No sale

Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond and FRB President Donna Case-an FRB veteran-denied there was any talk of selling the unit. FRB, which employs 70 staffers across offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, works for General Electric Co. and Archer Daniels Midland.

Separately, Interpublic has added the management of two other PR agencies Golin/Harris International and the MWW Group, to Mr. Diamond's responsibilities. He also manages the firm's branding consultancy, FutureBrand.

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