LONDON—Lord Peter Chadlington, founder of Shandwick and now chief executive of the Huntsworth Group, is on the verge of making a move that will instantaneously elevate his new firm into the top five or six firms in the U.K., give it a foothold in the lucrative investor relations sector, and expand its operations into the U.S. for the first time.
While neither Chadlington nor any of the other parties involved would comment, sources say Huntsworth will this week announce its acquisition of the investor relations operations of Thomson Financial. The company will also name Richard Wolff, who recently stepped down as general manager of the New York office of Golin/Harris as head of its corporate and financial group, and may also be buy a consumer goods PR firm in London.
The deals would give Huntsworth revenues of around $40 million. When Chadlington and his backers took over the troubled company in August of 2000, it was parent to a food and nutrition PR firm, Counsel Public Relations, and immediately acquired consumer specialist Stephanie Churchill PR; PBC Marketing, best known for its work in the healthcare sector; and boutique technology shop Woodside Communications. Its other major acquisition was Harrison Cowley, a regional PR firm headquartered in Manchester that was ranked 24 in the U.K.
Huntsworth clients include Heinz, Unilever, Boeing, GlaxoSmithKline, Camelot and Marks & Spencer.
Thomson’s investor relations group was created when Thomson Financial—which offers a wide range of financial services—acquired The Carson Group to create a global investor relations firm led by Larry Bridge and Rich Anderson, who left recently for a position in the investor relations group at Fleishman-Hillard. At its peak, the group employed about 120 people doing about $14 million in annual billings, although it is understood that it currently employs closer to 50 people.
Thompson apparently decided the IR consulting business did not fit into its broader financial information business, and held sales talks with Interpublic, which would have merged the unit into its Golin/Harris International unit, and with the Abernathy MacGregor unit of Havas. When those deals fell through, Huntsworth stepped in.
It is understood that Huntsworth is buying only the assets of the business, specifically its people, including Bridge and U.K. operations chief Mary Price. As a result, service to clients will not be affected, with the same people handling the accounts. The major change will be that the unit is likely to get a new—as yet undetermined—name.
®In a separate development, former British Prime Minister John Major has turned to Chadlington for counsel following revelations that he had an affair with one of his cabinet ministers, Edwina Currie. The revelations came in a new book, which is being serialized by the Times of London.
Chadlington, whose brother John Gummer was also in the Major cabinet, will work alongside Jonathan Hill, who was Major’s political secretary at Downing Street, to help salvage the former PM’s reputation.