It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Pincus played a leading role in the invention of the modern IR business. The firm he founded grew with the discipline, posting fees of around $30 million at the time it was sold to BSMG Worldwide two-and-a-half years ago. BSMG chief executive Harris Diamond describes Pincus as “one of the true pioneers in our industry.”
“Today, investor relations is the elite business in the communications field,” Pincus says. “I don’t think anyone in the communications field, even in the advertising business, is earning more than the IR pro, either in-house or in the agency business. IR has been the fastest-growing part of the communications field, and it has been delivering the best margins.”
Pincus will be handing over the reins at FRB to Donni Case, who was most recently head of the firm’s west coast operations. That move came as something of a shock, because FRB had named Michael Rosenbaum president five years ago and it was widely assumed that he was the designated success to Pincus. Rosenbaum, however, will be leaving the firm, and Case—who previously headed FRB’s market intelligence division—will take over as president.
The move comes as FRB parent BSMG Worldwide is merged with Weber Shandwick to create a giant $500 million agency, with FRB as its lead investor relations resource. Interpublic apparently saw the deal as an opportunity to buy out some expensive management contracts at FRB, taking a one-time charge rather than carrying the expense over several years. But Pincus says he will remain active, both as a consultant to FRB and as an advocate for the investor relations business. He says he intends to teach and write about the field.
Case, meanwhile, will work with a management team that includes Kathy Brunson, manager of the Chicago office; Karen Griffiths, manager of New York; Stephanie Mishra in San Francisco; Moira Conlon of Los Angeles; and Dan Reid, who heads the firm’s professional and financial services marketing practice.
“We have a tremendous amount of intellectual capital in this organization,” Case says. “We have a tremendous opportunity to integrate the IR practice with the rest of the Weber Shandwick entertprise.” She says she sees an opportunity for integration on behalf of clients who want to be sure they are sending the same messages to all stakeholder groups—employees, suppliers, customers, and shareholders—and to move FRB in a more strategic direction, counseling CEOs and CFOs on sophisticated valuation issues.
Case will report to Andy Polansky, vice chairman of BSMG.
“Donni Case is a savvy business builder and a great team builder,” says Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond. “As we look ahead, I'm sure we will see even more synergy for our investor relations practice, given the depth and breadth of the Weber Shandwick organization and its expertise in financial services marketing.”
FRB has been working with more closely with BSMG in recent months. Its New York, L.A., and San Francisco offices have all moved into BSMG space and that has helped the two firms realize more synergies, Polansky says. It is not clear how the firm will be branded as the BSMG-Weber Shandwick restructuring takes place, but it is likely that the FRB name will survive, allowing the firm to capitalize on what Polansky calls “tremendous equity.”
As for Pincus, he sees a bright future for both the IR business and the firm he founded.
“I think our greatest achievement over the years has been persuading people of the importance of transparency,” he says. “If you make yourself open and accessible and easy to understand you have crossed the biggest barrier to a fair valuation of your stock. I have given bonuses to people who were fired by clients for urging greater transparency, because it’s so important. It’s good for investors, and it’s good for the companies themselves.
“Over the past six years we have moved beyond transparency to guidance. Companies that try to make the future transparent can avoid the kind of volatility so many CEOs worry about. Companies are going public with the complete picture of what their outlook is like, and when they do they are no longer at the mercy of the Street.”
Despite that progress, however, Pincus estimates that fully one-third of public companies do not have investor relations professionals handling their financial communications—leaving plenty of room for the industry to grow.