Despite significant dislocation in the capital markets over the last few months of 2007, Sard Verbinnen—which dropped the Citigate prefix from its name in 2006 after the announcement that principals George Sard and Paul Verbinnen would be taking their firm—a leader in financial communications, mergers and acquisitions, and crisis communications—independent again. Sard and Verbinnen continue to focus on what they do best (relieved of any worry about the demands of a publicly-traded parent), which includes a wide range of critical issues including mergers and acquisitions, asset sales, initial public offerings, litigation support, crisis communications, proxy contests and executive changes, as well as ongoing corporate positioning and investor relations work.
Once regarded as a firm dominated by its two principals—inevitable given the track records of Sard and Verbinnen, veterans of the glory days of Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart—Sard Verbinnen appears to have made a concerted effort to add bench strength over the past couple of years. Brad Wilks, former head of the Chicago office of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, has been managing director and CEO of Sard Verbinnen’s Chicago office for three years now, building a formidable practice in the second city, while the firm also has a fast-growing office in San Francisco headed by Paul Kranhold, former VP of corporate public relations at AT&T and Matthew Benson, formerly of Washington, D.C., public affairs firm Bivings Woodell. New additions to the team over the past 12 months include Kathryn Kranhold, a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter, as a vice president and financial analyst Paul Scarpetta, also former head of investor relations at Freddie Mac, as a principal.
The firm has a healthy balance of transactional and retainer clients, ranging from Fortune 100 corporations to smaller companies, private investment firms and private individuals, and a significant percentage of those retainer clients have now been with the firm from five to ten years. As always, Sard Verbinnen served as communications counsel on a wide range of transactions in 2007, finishing the year third in the mergermarket rankings in terms of the value of deals worked and fourth in terms of volume. In addition, there was increase in crisis communications work, ranging from product recalls to data breaches to environmental crises.
Significant assignments over the past 12 months include advising Alcan on its $38 billion sale to Rio Tinto; Vivendi and Activision on the merger of Activision with Vivendi Games; MolsonCoors on its join venture with SAB Miller; BEA on its acquisition by Oracle; Leap Wireless in its defense of a hostile offer from MetroPCS; Meridian Gold in its unsolicited acquisition by Yamana Gold; Ventana Medical Systems on its acquisition by Roche; Danaher on its acquisition of Tektronix; SunCom on its sale to T-Mobile; and IHOP on its acquisition of Applebee’s ($2B). Beyond the transactional realm, the firm is representing former