Investor Relations and financial communications
Co-founders Elizabeth Saunders (former president and chief operating officer of the IR consulting arm of Thomson Financial Services) and Chris Hodges (vice president of consulting services for the same firm) launched Ashton Partners as a pure investor relations firm in 1997, but it didn’t take long for the agency to expand into financial media relations and corporate communications as clients began to demand a broader mix of services. Today, the firm derives the vast majority of its revenues from small to mid-cap companies drawing on its counsel for a wide range of financial communications challenges. Slightly more than half of those clienta are headquartered in the Midwest, and they span a variety of industries, with technology, healthcare, and services figuring prominently.
Investor relations programs are tailored to manage the Street’s perceptions so clients can focus on their performance. The firm combines traditional analysis tools with investor sentiment measures to take the guesswork out of the valuation equation. And most counselors have at least four years experience in the financial sector, as management consultants, analysts, accountants or corporate IR practitioners, which means clients get advice based on real expertise. On the financial media relations side, Ashton has a track record of generating stories in publications such as The Wall St. Journal, Investors’ Business Daily, Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, The New York Times, and Barron’s as well as on CNBC, CBS MarketWatch and CNNfn
After a flat first quarter, Ashton saw revenues begin to pick up in the second half, thanks in part to the revival of the M&A and IPO markets. Growth was around 24 percent, fueled in part by the establishment of new Boston and San Francisco offices and in part by assignments such as the Abbott-Hospira spin-off; the mergers of Fisher and Apogent and Symantec and Veritas; the emergence from bankruptcy of Chiquita; and the bankruptcy filing of Ultimate Electronics. Other major assignments included the introduction of a new CEO at Owens-Illinois; telling the turnaround story at Chiquita Brands; and evaluating governance issues for Navistar.