NEW YORK, July 2—Sometimes the entrepreneurial instinct is too strong for even the most powerful holding company to fight. Lynn Morgen left investor relations powerhouse Morgen-Walke Associates, the company she co-founded, just four months after it was sold to British communications holding company Cordiant. Now, less than a year later, her partner David Walke is also departing, to pursue a new—and as yet undefined—entrepreneurial opportunity.
The exits of Morgen and Walke clearly mark the end of an era for the firm, which grew to become the largest independent investor relations firm in the U.S., but combined with the departure this week of Terence Rooney, head of Morgen-Walke’s media relations group and an 18-year veteran of the firm, they might also be viewed as leaving a leadership vacuum.
Not so, says Walke. Management responsibility will pass to a team of five managing directors, led by new senior managing director and chief executive officer Robert Jones, himself an 11-yearM-W veteran. The new leadership team has been together for at least eight years—excepting a brief stint on the corporate side by west coast managing director Douglas Sherk—and is ideally positioned to help the firm build on its current market position, according to Walke.
“We have a very deep bench,” he says. “Bob has been instrumental in the growth of Morgen-Walke. He has built specialty practice areas and, most recently, led the firm’s investor relations practice. The rest of the team has a lot of experience too.” Other managing directors are Betsy Brod, Michele Katz, and Naomi Rosenfeld.
In addition, Walke says, he will continue as a senior consultant to the firm while exploring new opportunities, which will not be in the investor relations arena.
Jones joined Morgen-Walke in 1989 and has been a managing director since 1995. Currently, he oversees the firm’s investor relations practice and is active in new business development.
“As our industry continues to evolve, I believe we are in an excellent position to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist in our core business communications practice areas,” says Jones, who says he expects the firm to expand into new areas, offering broader public relations and media relations capabilities, including corporate branding counsel. “The heritage of the company is built on increasing our clients’ shareholder value, and that’s our focus, but we want to be able to grow with our clients, and that means offering a broader range of services.”
Morgen-Walke reported fees of close to $27 million last year, but it remains best known for its work with small and mid-cap companies. Clients include Checkpoint Systems, Ducati Motor, Cognizant, HotJobs.com, Duane Reade, and Dassault Systemes. Jones says he would like to see the firm expand its roster of large cap clients.
Another priority is likely to be adding capabilities in the mergers and acquisitions and strategic communications arena. Cordiant also owns one of the U.K.’s leading M&A public relations specialists, Financial Dynamics, and as the M&A business becomes increasingly global it would be advantageous to have a similar capability on this side of the Atlantic.
“It’s a priority,” says Jones. “There’s an opportunity to get involved in that arena with more of our clients. We were recently involved in a major M&A program for a healthcare company, working with Financial Dynamics and coordinating the communications process in this country, but it’s not an area we are as well known for as we should be.”
In addition to naming Jones as CEO, the firm also named Stacy Berns and Brian Maddox, both principals, as co-managers of the corporate media relations practice, replacing Rooney. According to Jones, “Media relations is a cornerstone of Morgen-Walke, and we appreciate the tremendous contribution Terry has made to our firm. He has developed a team of highly talented and effective professionals, including Stacy and Brian, who have been instrumental in overseeing the growth of our media relations practice.”