RICHMOND—Carter Ryley Thomas Public Relations & Marketing Counsel, the Virginia-based public relations best known for its distinctive work environment, has acquired New York creative shop Patrice Tanaka & Company. The new firm will be called CRT/tanaka, and will be led by a management team that includes CRT’s Mark Raper and Mike Mulvihill as chairman/CEO and president respectively, and Patrice Tanaka as co-chair and chief creative officer as well as head of the firm’s creative practice.
In discussing the reasons for the deal, both firms emphasized cultural compatibility, and a mutual familiarity that stems from their shared membership of the Lumin Collaborative. Says Tanaka, “We had been approached numerous times to be acquired, but we never took those overtures seriously. But we could see ourselves being part of this agency, because we felt we shared the same commitment to creating the right sort of culture, and the same philosophy about running a firm.”
One element in common is the fact that PT&Co. was formed when Tanaka and her management team bought themselves out from the Chiat Day advertising agency; CRT was formed when Raper and his partners extracted themselves from the Virginia office of Earle Palmer Brown.
But Raper was also at pains to emphasize that “while culture is important, the bottom line is that this is about the work we do for clients.” The merger “provides the marketplace with something clients keep asking for: mid-sized agency attributes, such as personal attention, top management participation, world-class service and more creative solutions, with the size, resources and breadth of experience that offers a valued alternative to large, multi-national agencies.”
The combined company will be headquartered in Richmond, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Charlotte, N.C., and Norfolk, Va. The merger creates an agency with approximately $10.5 million in combined fees, making CRT/tanaka one of the largest, independent mid-sized PR firms in the country, and Raper says he has plans to build a $25 million agency.
Still, he recognizes that even a national midsize agency cannot compete with the publicly-owned multinationals on every front. “We have been refocusing the agency in areas where we believe we can compete, and after bringing in a senior person in the corporate practice to focus on employee engagement and investor relations, this acquisition will strengthen two of our other core practices: consumer and healthcare,” Raper says.
The benefit to the firm’s consumer practice is self-evident. PT&Co. has long been recognized as one of the nation’s most creative consumer specialists, particularly in the cause marketing sector and marketing to women, and has broad lifestyle marketing expertise, with a client roster that includes Mercedes-Benz USA, Target Stores, Charles Schwab & Co., Girl Scouts of the USA, Wines from Rioja, Carpet One, All-Clad Metalcrafters and De’Longhi
On the healthcare front, the addition of a New York office will provide closer contact with CRT’s existing portfolio of pharmaceutical industry clients, including Wyeth and Pfizer, both of which are based in the New York-New Jersey area.
Maria Kalligeros and Ellen LaNicca Albanese, PT&Co. presidents and co-founders, will both serve as executive vice presidents at CRT/tanaka and will act as senior leaders in the consumer practice alongside CRT’s consumer practice leaders, Charlie Domalik, vice president of sponsorship and event marketing, and Christian Markow, associate vice president of consumer electronics.
CRT executive vice president and co-founder, Brian Ellis, will continue to lead the agency’s health practice, assisted by Debbie Myers, senior vice president. CRT senior vice president Michael Whitlow will continue to lead the corporate and business-to-business practice. PT&Co. CFO and co-founder Evelyn Calleja will become senior vice president and director of workplace culture, while CRT CFO Jeff Thomas will remain CFO for CRT/tanaka.
All of the executives of the acquired firm are expected to stay with CRT for at least five years. “We have a long term plan to build a national agency with revenues of $20-$30 million,” says Raper, who says that plan could include additional acquisitions. “We are all committed to that.”