2017 Financial PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report

2017 North America Financial Agencies of the Year

Our 2017 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada.

Analysis of each of the Agencies of the Year for every category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winners were unveiled at the 2017 North American SABRE Awards, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 2.

Winner: Joele Frank (Independent)

It was no surprise to see that Joele Frank’s firm was number two in the US in terms of the number of financial transactions worked last year (and number one in terms of deal value). After all, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher has been topping those charts for a while. It was a little more surprising to see the firm come in fourth on mergermarket’s global table (second in value), because it’s one of only a couple of major players without formal international links. Clearly, that’s no disadvantage—in fact, its ability to work with multiple global partners may be an advantage.

The firm represented Monsanto in its $65.7 billion sale to Bayer; Agrium and PotashCorp in their merger-of-equals; CenturyLink in its $33.5 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications; Enbridge in its $28.0B merger with Spectra Energy; as well as deals for Symantec and Salesforce. But M&A is only part of the story at the firm, which has been a leader in investor activism, bankruptcies and restructurings, and in 2016 developed a new capability dedicated to helping companies deal with the reputation threat posed by cybersecurity breaches.

An expert when it comes to helping companies play defense in activist battles, the firm supported Arconic against Elliott Management; Buffalo Wild Wings against Marcato Capital; Chipotle Mexican Grill against Pershing Square; iRobot against Red Mountain Capital; and The Williams Companies against Corvex Management. It also counseled Arch Coal on its successful emergence from Chapter 11; Caesars Entertainment on its complex, contested Chapter 11 reorganization; and CHC Group on the successful confirmation of its plan of reorganization.

The firm also continues to add blue-chips clients such as Chinese giant Anbang Group Holdings, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle, FMC Technologies, Gannett and Yahoo! to a client roster that includes the likes of American Airlines, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Monsanto, and Procter & Gamble. — PH


Finsbury (WPP)

While many of the firms in its space have been forced to diversify beyond financial transactions to add more retainer corporate reputation work, Finsbury—at least in the US—has been facing the opposite challenge. An established leader in the high-stakes corporate realm since its Robinson Lerer & Montgomery days, the firm has been expanding its financial and M&A capabilities to take advantage of the cross-border potential presented by its UK operation, a perennial leader in the M&A rankings there. And there is certainly evidence that Finsbury’s US operations are making progress, ranking sixth in Mergermaket's US M&A rankings for 2016 by value, and 11th by deal count.

Meanwhile, the firm has continued to handle high-profile work foe Toyota, UnitedHealth Group and the Walgreens Boots Alliance, while also adding new business from the NBA Player's Association and Viacom last year. In New York, Paul Holmes was elevated to CEO of North America, with Michael Gross becoming vice-chairman. Ambassador Miriam Sapiro was named head of the Washington office, expanding Finsbury's public affairs capabilities, while Charlie Sipkins joined the LA office to continue building its West Coast offering. — AS

Kekst and Company (Publicis Groupe)

In the high-stakes corporate and financial advisory business, generational transition can be tricky, but at Kekst the shift that began with the appointment of 44-year-old president and CEO Jeremy Fielding in 2015 was continued in 2016 without minimal disruption to the business, with the firm continuing to rank in the top three US advisors in the M&A realm, advising on 119 deals including EMC’s $60 billion sale to Dell, the largest ever tech transaction; supporting Linde on its $65 billion merger of equals with Praxair, Baxalta on its $32 billion merger with Shire. LifeLock’s $2.3 billion sale to Symantec, andYum! Brands on the spinoff of its China business.

The firm has also continued to diversify its business in restructurings and bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions, litigation support, crisis communications, corporate governance, shareholder activism, and representing some 55+ private equity firms and hedge funds. Highlights included continuing to advise Volkswagen on recovery from its emissions crisis; the closure of Al Jazeera America; restructurings at SunEdison and Peabody Energy; and shareholder activism for PulteGroup, LifeLock, and SeaWorld

The new leadership team, with senior vice presidents Tom Davies, Todd Fogarty, and Lissa Perlman supported by experienced hands Jim Fingeroth (now chairman), Jeffrey Taufield and Robert Siegfried (vice chairmen), continued to expand, as the firm recruited veterans from Wall Street and leading law firms. — PH