LONDON, July 6—Matthew Freud, great-nephew of Edward Bernays and a high-profile pioneer of celebrity-driven public relations in the U.K., has bought back the firm he sold to Omnicom-owned advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers in 1994. The £10m buyback makes Freud Communications, with revenues of around £7.5 million, one of the largest independent PR firms in the British market.
Freud was joined in the management buyout by chief executive, Nick Wiszowaty, directors Gaby Zein and Oliver Wheeler and the creative director, Paul Melody. Longtime Freud associate Kris Thykier—best known in the U.K. as spokesman for movie director Guy Ritchie—will become managing director of the firm, taking over from Zein, who remains on the board of directors.
The deal was apparently amicable. In a statement, Freud says the company “owes a great deal to the guiding hand of Peter Mead and to the AMV Group for its support and encouragement” while Mead, who is vice chairman of Omnicom, says “I fully endorse the decision… and wish the MBO team continued success in the future.”
But while the split had been rumored for several months, it still came as something of a surprise to industry-watchers, given the trend toward greater consolidation and the fact the Omnicom is generally regarded as the most benevolent parent among the giant holding companies.
Freud Communications was founded in 1985 and developed a brand of public relations that successfully combined celebrity representation with highly creative consumer PR. While best known for its work on behalf of celebrities such as former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, Freud counts among its clients some major brands including BT, Nike, Pepsi, and Pizza Hut. It ranks second only to Hill & Knowlton in consumer marketing PR, according to the latest PR Week league tables, and is in the U.K. top 20 overall.
In addition to his relationship with Bernays—which he says he learned about only after deciding to pursue a career in PR—Freud is about to become son-in-law to media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He recently announced his engagement to Elisabeth Murdoch, with whom he has a child.