NEW YORK, July 13—Havas Advertising, the world’s fifth largest communications holding company has acquired Noonan/Russo Communications, the leading independent biotechnology public relations firm in the U.S. Noonan/Russo will joins a roster of U.S. public relations firms that includes Magnet Communications, Middleberg Euro RSCG, Abernathy MacGregor and PResence EuroRSCG, giving Havas U.S. PR holdings worth an estimated $80 million.
Noonan/Russo will operate an independent unit within Havas Advertising’s Diversified Agency Group, reporting to DAG North American chairman and CEO Patrick Lemarchand. It will maintain its own identity, something that was apparently very important to founders Anthony Russo and Susan Noonan as they evaluated potential parent companies.
“We have thought about this for a long time and we have been heavily courted for the past six years,” says Russo. “But we felt very strongly that we needed to get to a certain point in our own growth before we would consider selling.”
With revenues in 2000 of around $14 million, Noonan and Russo felt they had reach that point, and that Havas presented the best fit.
“The first reason we chose Havas was that they have a very strong European presence, and we see growth in Europe as very much part of our strategy,” says Russo. While Havas does not have a major presence in the biotech arena in Europe—almost no one does—it does have broad healthcare capabilities, and Russo expects to see some synergies there.
But part of the attraction of Havas was that it would not force those synergies. “We will get to keep a measure of independence and to keep our own name,” says Russo. “Havas is committed to building a strong PR presence in the U.S., and it encourages synergies between its agencies, but it very much wants us to find those synergies on our own timetable and based on our own needs. It doesn’t have any pre-existing ideas about how it wants the organization to look, and we liked that.”
Noonan/Russo represents a wide range of biotech clients, almost all of them in the healthcare-related end of the biotech business, and a handful of pharmaceutical companies. Clients include Aventis, Chiron Corporation, Genencor, GPC Biotech, Serono, and others. The firm offers public relations, investor relations, and branding services, and in addition to its New York headquarters has offices in San Francisco and London.
Says Alain de Pouzilhac, chairman and CEO of Havas Advertising, “This agreement strengthens Havas Advertising’s expertise in the rapidly growing healthcare communications market. Noonan/Russo is the leading agency in biotech, a market that continues to expand. Our combined capacities will enable us to develop our resources in a sector which is totally strategic for Havas.”