PARIS—Just two months after it brought all of its public relations holdings together under one banner, Publicis Groupe has acquired a majority stake in the largest independent consumer PR firm in the U.K., Freud Communications. The firm is run by Matthew Freud, a descendant of Sigmund (whose nephew, Ed Bernays, is considered the father of modern public relations), and husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, who is well connected in U.K. entertainment and political circles.
The Public Relations and Corporate Communications Group of Publicis has agreed to acquire a 50.1 percent stake in Freud Communications, best known for its work in the consumer sector, where it represents brands such as Nike, KitKat, Tropicana, Walkers, Nescafé, Jack Daniel’s and AOL. In recent years the company has also seen growth in its corporate, film, entertainment and international divisions, with clients including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Nestlé, Time Warner, Pepsico and the London Development Agency.
“Matthew Freud is a unique and innovative presence in the world of British public relations,” says Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO Maurice Lévy. “And bringing him and Freud Communications into the Publicis Groupe fold will demonstrate to our clients—both British and global—our commitment to marshal the best and brightest skills to ensure their success.”
Freud Communications will be part of PRCC, which has 1300 employees under the Manning Selvage & Lee, Publicis Consultants and Rowland Communications brands, spanning 25 countries. The firm will report to PRCC chairman Lou Capozzi, who says it will operate as a stand-alone brand within the group, continuing its operation in the U.K. and opening an office in the U.S.
“Matthew Freud moves in circles we don’t move in, political and entertainment and corporate circles,” says Capozzi. “His firm is a great complement to our existing U.K. operations. There’s very little overlap. The fact that they are the biggest independent consumer PR firm in the U.K. means this gives a tremendous boost to our operations in the second largest PR market in the world. And the fact that we are making this acquisition just eight weeks after PRCC was formed demonstrates Publicis’ commitment to expanding its PR operations.”
Capozzi is currently conducting a review of the French holding company’s various PR holdings to assess whether various units should work more closely together or even merge, but he declined to be drawn into speculation about whether Freud would be part of that review.
Freud opened his firm in 1984, and sold it to U.K. advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers—which became part of Omnicom—a decade later. In 2001, he led a £10 million management buyout that took the firm private.
Says Freud, “A partnership with the Publicis must be the ultimate goal for any independent marketing agency. To be able to preserve and develop our business and culture but have the resources of the most creative global network will provide great opportunities for clients and staff alike.”
He will continue to take an active leadership role in the firm and to lead its proposed international expansion.