JOHANNESBURG--Edelman has entered Africa by acquiring longtime South African affiliate Baird's Renaissance.
The agency, one of South Africa's largest, will be renamed Edelman South Africa, following a deal that sees the US firm take majority ownership. Baird's has been Edelman's affiliate for 20 years, with founder Francois Baird now assuming the chairman role of Edelman Africa.
"It’s an instance where Africa really represents the last frontier of growth, globally," Edelman COO Matt Harrington told the Holmes Report. "Over the last year, we’ve had more cause for partnership with Francois and his team than ever before. When we talk with our clients, in Asia too, all roads are looking to Africa."
Tod Donhauser, currently EVP and head of Edelman's technology policy group in Washington, DC, will relocate to Johannesburg to become MD of Edelman South Africa. He reports to Robert Holdheim, CEO of Edelman South Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Last year, Edelman restructured its geographic model to group Africa and the Middle East within Asia-Pacific, under regional CEO David Brain's overall leadership. In a blogpost, Brain noted that the Baird's deal would change the firm's sensibility, bringing in an African point of view and outlook.
Peter Mageza, now deputy chairman of the board at Baird’s CMC, will become vice chairman of Edelman South Africa.
Francois Baird told the Holmes Report that the firm's capabilities across the continent - it services 29 countries - would prove pivotal to Edelman South Africa's success. "There is enormous opportunity to leverage the strength of the entire Edelman network, intellectual capital and talent to benefit this dynamic continent and to deploy our Africa expertise and network to the benefit of Edelman clients.”
Baird's has 20 full-time staff and 10 consultants and already shares a number of clients with Edelman, including Indian conglomerate Tata. Edelman South Africa, the firm’s 67th global office, will be a level one Black Economic Empowerment Company, according to the terms of the national programme that aims to empower previously disadvantaged groups of South Africans.
Edelman joins a small group of international PR firms that own operations in South Africa, including Fleishman-Hillard, Burson-Marsteller, Text 100, Ogilvy PR and Waggener Edstrom.