Franco, Founder of Detroit PR Firm, Dead of Cancer
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Franco, Founder of Detroit PR Firm, Dead of Cancer

Anthony M. Franco, founder of the Franco Public Relations Group in Detroit, died of cancer at St. Joseph Mercy/Oakland Hospital in Pontiac. He was 69.

Paul Holmes

DETROIT, July 30—Anthony M. Franco, founder of the Franco Public Relations Group in Detroit, died of cancer at St. Joseph Mercy/Oakland Hospital in Pontiac. He was 69.
 
Franco built his firm into one of the largest independent public relations agencies in the country, and was a leader in the public relations industry also, serving as president of the Public Relations Society of America in 1986.
 
But he also became a controversial figure, stepping down from his position at PRSA after the Securities & Exchange Commission accused him of using inside information from a client, Crowley Milner & Company, to try to turn a $27,000 profit on the stock market. He later described overcoming that charge as his greatest accomplishment.
 
Daniel Ponder, current chief executive of the Franco firm, told the Detroit Free Press, “Tony was larger than life. Even today, nearly nine years after Tony retired from Franco, when the company’s name is mentioned during conversation, it’s not uncommon to have someone say, ‘I knew Tony,’ followed by a story of a meeting, a golf game or a charitable involvement.”
 
Franco founded the agency in 1964 and served as chairman and CEO until he retired in 1993. Three years earlier, he had sold a controlling interest in the firm to local advertising agency Ross Roy. The firm was bought back by management after Franco’s retirement.
 
Highly visible in the community, Franco served as chairman of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce and WTVS-TV Public Television. He also sat on the advisory boards of the United Way and the Hospice Foundation of Southeast Michigan.
 
His is survived by his wife of 19 years, Melissa; daughters Catherine Pearson, Suzanne Hertle, Anne Franco O’Neill, Patricia Roberge and Meredith Franco Meyers; sons Anthony Jr., Michael, David and Christopher; and 11 grandchildren. The family suggests memorial donations to the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 15920 W. Twelve Mile Road, Suite 203, Southfield 48076, or Moorings Presbyterian Church Building Fund, 791 Harbour Drive, Naples, FL 34103.
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