NEW YORK, June 18—In 1999, Hill & Knowlton enhanced its high-tech PR capabilities with the acquisition of San Francisco-based technology specialist Blanc & Otus. One of B&O’s greatest assets was the depth of its leadership, with agency president Jonelle Birney immediately taking on a global role as director of H&K’s worldwide tech practice. Now Birney is stepping down from that position—she will continue as a strategic advisor to the firm—and one of B&O’s founders, Maureen Blanc, is taking over.
Blanc has been named acting director of the worldwide technology practice and a member of the firm’s worldwide executive committee while Greg Spector, hired as chief operating officer at Blanc & Otus in the spring of last year, has been named chief executive officer of B&O, and a member of its U.S. operating committee.
“Since H&K’s acquisition of Blanc & Otus, the technology practice has emerged as one of the leading dedicated practices in the industry, with revenues in excess of $80 million in 2000,” says Howard Paster, the firm’s chairman and CEO. “After having established H&K and B&O as a premier player in the global technology arena, Maureen’s appointment is a logical progression, a new generation of management that will continue that legacy.”
Paster says the changes will not influence the way H&K and B&O work together in the tech arena. Unlike sister company Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, which recently established Alexander Ogilvy as its tech practice, H&K will continue to operate B&O as a separate unit, although the two firms do work together on larger accounts such as Compaq.
Says Paster, “There are enough technology buyers out there who are looking for a specialist tech agency, so the format will be the same. We will work together when its appropriate, but we will keep B&O as a distinct brand.” Paster says tech revenues at H&K so far this year are “barely ahead” of last year, but significantly lower than the agency’s forecasts.
Birney, meanwhile, says she is taking a reduced role in part because of family issues. “Since I joined Blanc & Otus we have tripled in size and I have taken on a global role with Hill & Knowlton. I wanted to lay off some of my responsibilities on other people. I love new business development and I love client work, particularly in the telecommunications sector, and that’s where I am going to be focusing my efforts.”
She says that when Spector was hired from GCI Group last year, it was with the understanding that he would take over as CEO. “When we hired Greg over a year ago, it was with the intention that he would take the company to the next level and that the founding partners and I would move into advisory roles, where we can best leverage our talents. We are pleased at the progress and are at that point for Greg to take the helm. He has a great management team in place, and is already off and building our next level of services.”