NEW YORK—WPP Group chief executive has decided against a merger of public relations brands GCI Group and Cohn & Wolfe following the departure of GCI president Bob Feldman, deciding that two “strong and vital independent brands” would best serve clients and naming Jeff Hunt to succeed Feldman following his departure for the senior communications position at DreamWorks Animation.
WPP has, however, made a change in reporting structure. Hunt will report to Cohn & Wolfe chief executive Donna Imperato, who will have responsibility for a new internal WPP group overseeing the two PR firms in addition to her continuing responsibility for C&W. However, GCI will continue to be aligned with Grey Global Group—its former parent company, which was acquired by WPP earlier this year—while Cohn & Wolfe will remain part of the holding company’s Young & Rubicam Brands unit.
Hunt will continue to operate out of GCI’s Austin office, where he has been leading the Dell account—one of the agency’s largest—managing the GCI Read Poland public affairs operation, and acting as president of GCI Latin America.
Hunt has counseled numerous multinational clients, including IBM, DuPont, AT&T, Dell, ATP, Motorola, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. He joined GCI following an 18-year tenure with Burson – Marsteller, where he worked in London as chief operating officer for Europe, with responsibility for 16 offices throughout the continent, and served in New York as vice chairman of client services worldwide. He also established the firm’s presence in Korea and Mexico, later running the entire Latin America region.
WPP has historically resisted the temptation to merge public relations or advertising brands, but with GCI and Cohn & Wolfe found itself with two brands that are neither full-service global firms (like Burson-Marsteller or Hill & Knowlton) nor specialist boutiques (like Robinson Lerer Montgomery in the U.S. or Finsbury in the U.K.). A merger could have created a top 10 firm internationally, with revenues approaching those of another WPP brand, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.