Paul Wilmot Communications, the New York-based fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle public relations firm, has been acquired by Hampton Carney, who will retain the managing partner and chief executive officer title.
Carney has purchased the majority stake from the Omnicon Group of Cos. which bought the agency 10 years ago, and has acquired the minority stake previously held by cofounders Paul Wilmot, Ridgely Brode and Stormy Stokes.
“I joined the company in the summer of 1997 so it’s almost 21 years to the day since I came on board. We’ve had a great time and done some truly spectacular work,” said Carney. “Over the years, the agency has evolved from doing mostly fashion account work to handling many retail, cosmetics, lifestyle and hospitality brands, and we’re making strides in our digital capabilities as well. I’m blessed to have backing from my family to be able to make the transaction.”
Carney noted that the company recently hired Samantha Kain as managing director. She was previously managing director, U.S. at Purple, (which she established in the U.S.) and before that was managing director of Syndicate Media Group. Earlier in her career she was an account director at Paul Wilmot Communications from 2002 to 2008.
According to Carney, Kain brings a wealth of expertise from the hotel, lifestyle, beauty and wellness space, which have been targeted as key growth categories at the new company.
Over the years, the agency has worked with such hotels as 60 Thompson and the Waldorf Astoria. “Hospitality will be a big focus for us,” said Carney. They are working with a hotel in Tulum, Mexico, as well as a sustainable restaurant group, Quick Fish and Bamboo Sushi. The firm works with Blue Mercury as well.
The company employs 30 people and will continue to be based at 581 Sixth Avenue, where it occupies 9,000 square feet and will be refreshed.
Carney noted that Wilmot will remain as founding partner. “In his new role, Paul will be focusing on new business and strategy. Ridgely will stay on too and oversee operation and human resources,” said Carney. Stokes left the agency before the Omnicon acquisition.
Wilmot added, “Hampton is the most naturally gifted public relations executive I’ve ever known and he’s respected by the media and clients alike. He has great skill in the areas of strategy, event execution, client relationships and he’s a wonderful writer, too. I can think of no one better equipped to take the agency forward.”
Under the new company’s direction, Carney will oversee re-branding of the agency, which will roll out this summer. Carney said he plans to change its name, but he won’t be using his name.
“We need a fresh re-branding,” said Carney, who plans to connect to the agency’s past, history and track record, “which I think is pretty stellar. It will be, in some way, shape or form, incorporated,” he said.
Digital will be a key aspect of the new agency. “We really made a real push into digital. We have the best broadcast division of any agency in New York,” he said.
Asked why Omnicon wanted to sell its stake, he said, “We were such a small fish in a big pond and it just made sense for us to go independent again. They were a dream to work with,” said Carney.
Paul Wilmot Communications was established in 1997 by Wilmot, Brode and Stokes. During its 21-year-history, the agency has represented high-profile fashion houses, prestige beauty brands, global consumer brands, retailers, hospitality brands, non-profit and luxury lifestyle clientele. The company has a dedicated content studio that creates proprietary client content that can be shared across social media platforms and used as brand collateral, press, digital marketing and sales tools.