Stoorza Restructures, Spins Off Three Units
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Stoorza Restructures, Spins Off Three Units

Stoorza is undertaking a major restructuring, divesting two of its offices—Sacramento and Riverside—as well as its San Diego-based political campaigns and public affairs groups. Each of those three units has been acquired by its existing management.

Paul Holmes

  SAN DIEGO, July 30—There was a time when Stoorza Communications—formerly Stoorza Ziegaus & Metzger—was the largest public relations firm in California, with offices spanning from its San Diego headquarters to Los Angeles to the state capital in Sacramento, where it was known as one of the state’s most influential government relations firms.
 
There was a time when that positioning seemed strategically sound, as California boomed and clients looked for a well-connected firm to handle corporate communications, brand marketing and public affairs. But the business climate has changed, and the demand for the services of a midsize generalist—Stoorza had fees of close to $10 million—has been on the wane.
 
“The current marketplace gives us two choices,” says John Spelich, who was hired as director of public relations earlier this year. “One is we could be acquired, and become part of the wave of consolidation that has been sweeping the industry. Or two is to be small a focused. We were too big to be small and too small to be big.”
 
As a result, Stoorza is undertaking a major restructuring, divesting two of its offices—Sacramento and Riverside—as well as its San Diego-based political campaigns and public affairs groups. Each of those three units has been acquired by its existing management, and will operate independently. Stoorza, meanwhile, will be refocused, with two remaining offices—San Diego and Los Angeles—and a staff of about 30.
 
“I spent 13 years on the client side,” says Spelich, who joined Stoorza from Gateway Computer, where he was director of investor communications. Previously he was a director of corporate communications at Ford and a reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Detroit Free Press. “If I was looking for an agency right now, I’d be looking a smaller firm that could offer greater value. That’s always been part of our offering, but that wasn’t the perception because we were so big.”
 
The new Stoorza is not going to be all things to all people, Spelich insists. The firm will focus on three areas: corporate and crisis communications, including an evolving litigation support practice; real estate and land use; and technology. The firm will be led by a management team that includes founder Gail Stoorza; Spelich, who will be the firm’s new president—its third in a year; Los Angeles market head Jane Galbraith; Janice McLaury, a veteran of Edelman Public Relations; and David Hallisey, a director in the San Diego office.
 
Patrick O’Reilly, the firm’s president and founder of its Riverside operations, will take over the Riverside office. Jeff Randle, the general manager of the Sacramento office, will take over that unit. And Tom Shepherd, who headed the campaigns and public affairs group, will continue to manage it under the Campaign Strategies name, taking with him Deanna Spehn, a former city council candidate who was head of Stoorza’s public affairs division.
 
Shepherd says he will be taking former Stoorza clients with him to his new firm and expects to start operating with campaign revenues of more than $500,000 and public affairs revenues of between $700,000 and $1 million.
 
O’Reilly, Randle, and Shepherd are the only most recent senior executives to leave the firm. Partners Alan Ziegaus and Bobbie Metzger left three years ago, and David DePinto—hired as president from Ketchum two years ago—left earlier this year, and recently announced the formation of his own agency with another Stoorza veteran Bob Morales.
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