WASHINGTON, D.C.—Three founding partners of Qorvis Communications, at the center of much controversy because of its continuing work for the government of Saudi Arabia, have left the firm to join Omnicom-owned strategic communications and public affairs boutique Clark & Weinstock.
Judy Smith, Jim Weber, and Bernie Merritt will operate from C&W’s Washington office, where they will work alongside former Representatives Vic Fazio and Vin Weber, who says that “from this point forward, we’ll be able to better translate our strategies into tangible, effective campaigns that will bring strong results.” The Weber Merritt Company will become Weber Merritt & Smith, a Clark & Weinstock Company.
Prior to forming Qorvis, Smith operated JAS Communications, a successful media relations firm focusing on crisis management and best known for its representation of Monica Lewsinsky. Weber and Merritt formerly built and ran the Weber Merritt Company, one of the leading grassroots public affairs firms in the nation’s capital.
According to C&W managing partner Davis Weinstock, “We’ve been examining ways to expand our capabilities to better serve our clients and, in recent months, we’ve identified media relations and grassroots public affairs as key areas for expansion. Bringing Smith, Weber, and Merritt on board achieves those objectives and does so while enhancing our strong reputation for quality and integrity.”
Qorvis was launched three years ago by a partnership that included the Patton Boggs law firm and former Weber Shandwick public affairs chief Michael Petruzzello, and has been one of the fastest-growing public affairs firms in Washington, with revenues of more than $10 million. But its work for the Saudi government—designed to position the Arab country as a staunch ally of the U.S.—has created controversy, particularly after the firm’s role expanded to include defending the Saudi position on children kidnapped from the U.S. by Arab parents.
Publicly, the trio had only good things to say about their experience at Qorvis, but associates told reporters the departures “reflected a deep discomfort” about the Saudi Arabia account.
The firm moved quickly this week to shore up its management ranks, with former Direct Impact executivea Michael Tucker and Curtis Robinson joining the firm as partners. According to Qorvis founding partners Michael Petruzzello and Doug Poretz, the new partners signal the company’s commitment to enhance its capabilities by building a comprehensive grassroots public affairs and marketing component.
“Michael Tucker and Curtis Robinson will add a new dimension to our campaign-style approach to public affairs,” says Petruzzello. “By bringing together ‘next generation’ grassroots with our research, media, events management and media services, we can help clients win on even the toughest issues.”
Tucker joined Direct Impact after serving as director of communications and policy for United States Senator Robert Kerrey (D-NE). He began his career as a political reporter and news editor for a chain of daily and weekly newspapers throughout the South. Robinson’s experience ranges from covering Margaret Thatcher for Reuters News Service to editing the 10,000-circulation Aspen Daily News.