Former Volkswagen public relations executive Maria Leonhauser Rosenau was named president of Franco Public Relations Group in September, joining CEO Dan Ponder and replacing Lisa Vallee-Smith, who departed to launch her own high-tech PR firm. The appointment of Rosenau—along with the selection of her husband, Pete Rosenau, as chairman of the company’s board of directors—strengthened the firm’s credentials in the automotive category (never, oddly, its primary area of expertise) and in the international arena and Ponder clearly believes that it positions Franco for growth for several years to come.
The new leadership team is just another step in the evolution of the firm, founded by Anthony Franco and taken over by Ponder, Vallee-Smith and others five years ago. The new leadership team took a sleepy, old-fashioned publicity shop and turned it into a more progressive, fast-paced, 21st century PR firm, with clients in a broad range of industry segments (automotive, professional services, retail, technology, healthcare, gaming) and a broad array of resources, including research, media training, employee and crisis communications and tools such as process mapping.
The firm will grow by about 12.5 percent in 2000, and end the year with fees of around $2.7 million. New clients such as AutoLiv and Solutia joined a roster that already includes the North American International Auto Show, Yazaki North America, and the MGM Grand Detroit. Franco also opened a satellite office in Las Vegas, with a primary focus on event management and trade show support, and brought in former Shandwick executive Gerald Lundy, a respected crisis counselor.