NEW YORK—GCI Group has sold its Minneapolis operation, GCI Tunheim, back to the leadership of the office, led by founder Kathy Tunheim. The new company will be called Tunheim Partners.
The Tunheim Group, then one of the Midwest’s largest strategic communications firms, was acquired by GCI in 2001, but according to a statement issued by GCI, “as the national economy soured, it became clear the Minneapolis office’s greatest success would be realized independently.”
Tunheim says that “as the environment was so challenging over the past couple of years, we took the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with each of our clients, and some prospective clients, and ask them what they were looking for in an agency partner.
“We heard two things with a remarkable consistency: first, that they wanted access to talent—not necessarily access to a global network, but access to people they can talk to; and second, they needed as much flexibility as we could give them, as far as the terms of engagement are concerned, and the way the resources are deployed, including having people on site when appropriate.”
Tunheim felt both those needs could be better met by an independent firm, one with a core of talented people and a network of freelance consultants—a model Tunheim Group employed before its relationship with GCI. In its new incarnation, Tunheim will supplement its 30 dedicated employees with a network of what it calls ACEs (for Associated Consultants and Executives).
While the exact nature of Tunheim’s continuing relationship with GCI has not been formally established, Tunheim says she expects to draw on key GCI executive as part of the ACE team, and to share some business.
For his part, GCI president and chief executive Bob Feldman says he expects the parting to be an amicable one. “I continue to have great admiration for Kathy and her colleagues and our companies will remain friends and occasional business partners,” says Feldman. “I’m confident in Tunheim Partners future success.”
Tunheim group will focus on three areas: public relations and media relations in the retail and consumer products categories, where its long-term relationship with Target Stores has given it a solid foundation; public affairs and public policy issues for corporate and higher education clients; and corporate consulting.