Public relations companies HL Group and KWT Global are to merge in a few days time, but the decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus, according to management.
Instead, Lynn Tesoro, cofounder and chief executive officer of HL Group, told WWD that the merger was first discussed in January before large swaths of the U.S. ground to a halt.
“Both KWT and HL are part of the MDC Partner Network. The idea of a merger really bloomed after a January strategy meeting when it became obvious that it made sense for us to join forces,” she said.
“Our strength in consumer, lifestyle, luxury, fashion, beauty maps against KWT’s expertise in corporate reputational management and digital brand strategies,” she added.
HL’s current client roster includes Eataly, Charlotte Tilbury, Bonobos, Four Seasons, Teva and Shiseido Fragrances, while KWT brings with it PayPal, American Express Global Business Travel and Sprint, among others.
Each agency will continue to market themselves under their respective trade names through the remainder of this year and then will decide on a new name for the merged business.
As for management, Aaron Kwittken, cofounder and ceo of KWT Global, will serve as global ceo of the combined firm, while Tesoro will remain founding partner of HL Group and will continue to work with the agency’s consumer and lifestyle clients.
While the merger might not have had anything to do with the coronavirus, the pandemic has impacted both firms, as it has most of the p.r. world, fashion, retail, travel and almost everything else. According to Tesoro, there have been layoffs at both businesses. She did not disclose numbers, but the combined company will have around 100 employees across offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.
“I think we’ve experienced what everyone else is experiencing [due to the coronavirus]. The need to trim down, to reduce headcount, to really focus on client services is what is needed,” said Tesoro, adding that there shouldn’t be any merger-relation headcount reduction. “We’ve gone through that before we headed into this merger so right now there’s no client overlap and also there will be no reductions.”
Other p.r. firms that have had to cut staff due to the pandemic include Karla Otto, Krupp Group, PR Consulting, Sequel (formerly Think PR), Bradbury Lewis, Linda Gaunt Communications and BPCM.
Patrick Bradbury, founder of Bradbury Lewis, told WWD in March that some of the changes taking place in the industry, even before the pandemic but accelerated by it, are shaking the work of agencies to their core.
“I thought we used to be able to control our clients by simply doing the best work we could do,” Bradbury said. “One thing I realized a few months ago is that our good work isn’t enough anymore. There are other factors that are going to make these decisions for us, which is such a tough spot to be in.”
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