There was a time when companies doing big deals could turn to only a handful of firms for advice. But the booming demand for counsel on acquisitions, activist investors and corporate crises has widened that circle and, increasingly, led to the creation of new firms.
The latest example is Collected Strategies, which is being started by several executives at the communications firm Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, along with Ed Hammond, a longtime mergers-and-acquisitions reporter for Bloomberg.
“Business news coverage, whether of transactions, high-profile crises or ongoing corporate activity, has evolved,” Mr. Hammond, a founding partner, said in a statement. “Communications advice needs to as well.”
The firm is starting in a period of elevated scrutiny of Wall Street’s activities. Investment firms have found themselves the focus of anger from both liberal and conservative groups. While overall deal making has been down, last year was the busiest in four years for activist investors, who take stakes in companies and demand change.
The increased need for advice can partly explain what has been driving the creation of the new communications firms. Investors in those deals are also attracted to the strong profit margins, given that the primary cost is people.
CVC Capital Partners bought a majority stake in the advisory firm Teneo in a deal that valued it at about $700 million in 2019. Two years later, Brunswick Group sold a minority stake to the merchant bank BDT. That same year, WPP, the advertising giant, merged the advisory firms Finsbury Glover Hering and Sard Verbinnen to create FGS Global. In April, the private equity firm KKR took a stake in FGS Global, valuing it at about $1.4 billion
Joele Frank is among the last of the independent firms. Ms. Frank founded it in 2000. It has since become a mainstay in deal making, advising the William R. Hewlett trust in its opposition in 2001 to Hewlett-Packard’s merger with Compaq and US Airways on its merger with American Airlines in 2013.
The executives leaving Joele Frank include Scott Bisang, who advised Twitter on its sale to Elon Musk last year; Jim Golden, who advised the banks First Republic and PacWest during the regional bank crisis this year; and Jude Gorman, who was the firm’s chief operating officer.
Mr. Hammond of Bloomberg follows in a tradition of star mergers-and-acquisitions reporters moving to corporate advisory work. Steven Lipin, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter who covered that beat, joined Brunswick Group in 2001 and started his own practice, Gladstone Place Partners, in 2017.
POST AUTHOR: Lauren Hirsch