The Wedding of the Year: Cap Gemini and Ernst & Young
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The Wedding of the Year: Cap Gemini and Ernst & Young

Amid a messy divorce battle between Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting and rumors that Deloitte & Touche was looking for a new partner for its consulting unit, Ernst & Young (E&Y) announced on May 23, 2000 that it had found a partner in Cap Gemini.

Paul Holmes

As the new millennium neared, The Big Five accounting and consulting services firms were coming under increasing regulatory pressure from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who alleged that the Big Five were engaged in a conflict of interest by providing companies with consulting advice and, at the same time, purporting to audit them in an objective manner. And so, the accountants and consultants of The Big Five were left with no choice…divorce. Amid a messy divorce battle between Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting and rumors that Deloitte & Touche was looking for a new partner for its consulting unit, Ernst & Young (E&Y) announced on May 23, 2000 that it had found “The One” – French consulting powerhouse, Cap Gemini.  E&Y chose to sell its consulting arm to Cap Gemini because of the French firm’s preeminence in Europe, which when combined with E&Y’s stronghold in the United States and Asia, had the potential to create the first consulting practice to corner the market on a global level.
 
The Weber Group (TWG), Ernst & Young’s agency of record since 1998, was asked to continue its PR services for the new firm. TWG eagerly accepted the offer and rapidly developed a strategic PR program that introduced the new company to the American media, established its thought leadership in several key industry sectors, and positioned CGE&Y as the first truly multi-cultural firm in the industry.
 
  “WHAT WE WANT FROM THIS MARRIAGE”
 
Like any true power couple, Ernst & Young and Cap Gemini wanted their marriage to unite the strengths of each company to create a stronger entity.  TWG identified Cap Gemini’s primary strengths as its preeminence in Europe and its thought leadership in the red-hot fields of telecommunications and supply chain innovation. TWG knew that E&Y’s strengths lay in its impressive hold on the U.S. market, its eCommerce strategy and integration capabilities, and its leadership in customer relationship management strategies.  Having established these attributes, TWG used them to shape the following PR objectives:
  • Clearly articulate the focus and direction of the New Company to the media in order to position it as a premiere thought leader in the new economy.
  • Spotlight the New Company’s cutting-edge work across all practice areas in key industry/trade publications.
  • Be seen and heard in desired media outlets to create a distinct brand footprint.
 
“MEDIA ARE FROM MARS, THE COMPANY IS BASED IN…FRANCE?”
 
What couple doesn’t have to overcome a few obstacles to reach marital bliss?
 
Meeting the In-laws – The American media found it difficult to understand why E&Y wanted to get married to an “unknown” French-based consulting firm.  While many were aware of the SEC pressure, most did not understand why E&Y would respond by selling off its consultancy to a European-based company.  Initial reaction to the possibility of the acquisition was met with skepticism.
 
Marriage Mania – At the same time as the E&Y/Cap Gemini marriage, the business world was experiencing many other mergers (including the mega-merger of Time Warner and AOL) – all competing for the attention of M&A reporters. 
 
Shhh – Don’t Tell Anyone!: Many of the details of the deal – (company spokespeople, GBU leaders, board of directors, etc.) were not decided when the announcement was made, so TWG did not have a lot of specifics to offer reporters.  Additionally, Cap Gemini, as a publicly traded company, had to be careful of what details it divulged and when it divulged them.  TWG had to walk a fine line between securing media interest and satisfying client demands for discretion.
 
Communicating with Family Members Around the Globe: The merger meant that TWG no longer worked exclusively with E&Y PR contacts in the U.S., and Cap Gemini’s PR team, based in France, was largely unfamiliar with the U.S. media.  TWG had to educate its new client on, among other things, how to deal with American reporters and what they considered newsworthy.
 
“WALKING DOWN THE AISLE”
 
On May 23, 2000, TWG helped issue the press release announcing the news that Cap Gemini’s acquisition of Ernst & Young’s consulting unit was complete.  Cap Gemini’s internal European PR team handled the announcement in Europe and with international media, while TWG approached the American media with the news.  This announcement would prove critical, providing the foundation to build PR momentum and helping to ensure that the marriage would be a success.  TWG took the following steps to reach its goals.
 
Research, Research, Research! Anticipating skepticism among the media, TWG conducted thorough research to identify appropriate consulting and M&A reporters at all desired publications.  Having identified these people and researched their style and areas of coverage interest, TWG approached each one individually, positioning the merger in a way tailored to their preferences. 
 
Ahead of the Pack: TWG differentiated this acquisition from all the rest by positioning CEO Geoff Unwin as a visionary choosing to aggressively lead the revolution of the market rather than stand still as the landscape changed around him.  Positioning Geoff as a vanguard proved critical in securing him face-to-face meetings with key reporters at Fortune, The New York Times, Bloomberg CEO Forum, Forbes, and InteractiveWeek.
 
Marriage Prep: TWG worked closely with the new company to identify what could be said, when, and how to say it without compromising regulatory rules.  In approaching the media, TWG was well prepared and funneled news to reporters in a timely and responsible manner.
Planning for a Long Future Together – The May 23rd announcement was ground zero for TWG’s involvement in PR planning for CGEY.  Moving forward, TWG worked closely with senior executives from each of the major practice areas including ASPs, B2B Digital Marketplaces, Customer Relationship Management, eBusiness, Supply Chain and Recruiting & Retention to create individual, comprehensive PR plans that included: guidelines and strategies for press releases, proactive pitch ideas and media targets, speaking opportunity programs, and a robust editorial calendar program.  TWG also worked to have all company spokespeople media trained to ensure that the company brand in the media was marked by its quality and consistency.
 
  “THE FRUITS OF A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE”
 
TWG secured a feature story in InformationWeek that showcased the CGE&Y M&A and included interviews with top executives, photographs, and client testimonials.
 
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young rallied in the last part of the year to post 10.2% pro forma revenue growth in 2000.  According to The Wall Street Journal, “That stronger performance in the last three months of 2000 suggests the group is starting to emerge from an uncertain period surrounding the acquisition and integration of the Ernst & Young consulting activities”
 
Since the announcement occurred in May of 2000, coverage of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in the media has dramatically increased.
 
TWG has been working with Forbes’ Joanne Gordon since May on a comprehensive story that takes inside look at the merger.
 
As of February 9, 2001, TWG has secured 701 significant print articles and broadcast hits in such outlets as:ignificant print articles and broadcast hits in such outlets as:  Associated Press, Bloomberg Business News, Business Week, The Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business 2.0, eWeek, InformationWeek, American Banker, Global IT Consulting, Investor Relations Business, ABC, CBS, NBC Reuters, BBC, Cnet News.com, Wall Street Journal Online and many, many more.
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