RESTON, VA — ICF Next, which announced last week the sale of its commercial marketing group, has identified the buyer as private equity firm Cohere Capital, which will spin the unit into a new company, called Phaedon.

Phaedon will be led by Kris Tremaine, head of ICF’s commercial marketing group (which handles the company’s commercial PR business), as CEO.

The marketing group’s leadership team (pictured left to right: Tom Madden, Tremaine, Mike Bireley, and Jackie Hopkins), staff and client roster will remain intact, Tremaine said. The group’s clients include the likes of Hyatt, Hilton, Molson Coors, Pepsi Co, and UnitedHealthcare.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Once that happens, Phaedon will operate out of a Minneapolis headquarters with offices in Chicago, Tremaine said.

“Phaedon will maintain a strategic focus on its core capabilities in loyalty, marketing and communications, and transformation, with shared services across analytics, creative and strategy,” Tremaine said. “We will also continue to use our proprietary technology platforms to expand into new and enhanced service offerings designed to drive impactful brand participation and increased growth for both clients and employees.

“Given this, there is perfect alignment with Cohere. They are a growth-focused private equity firm that primarily targets recapitalizations and investments in rapidly growing technology-enabled companies. Their significant investment experience in the digital engagement, loyalty, and marketing segments, as well as in professional IT services, makes them a great strategic partner to Phaedon,” she said

ICF Next chair and CEO John Wasson announced the sale of the group in last week's Q2 earnings report, saying that, “Given our focus on key growth markets within our government and commercial energy client sets, we believe the commercial marketing group will be better positioned to thrive under its new ownership, and we are pleased to note that their senior leadership and staff have been offered positions by the acquiror.” The group's projected revenues for 2023 as part of ICF are approximately $70 million, he said.

ICF Next will continue to offer PR and marketing services to clients in non-commercial sectors such as government and utility, Wasson said.

The group, which included what was PR shop Olson Engage, has seen extensive turnover since the holding company ICF rolled up all its agencies into one brand, ICF Next, in early 2019.

Tremaine has led the group since 2020, following the departure of John Armstrong.

Notable departures also include Bryan Specht, the longtime Olson Engage leader who parted ways with ICF Next a year after assuming a group leadership role. He has since launched data-focused communications firm Salient Global which is supported by a leadership team made up primarily of people who also come from ICF Next — including global president and senior managing partner Tricia Ewald, who had run ICF Next’s brand engagement group.

ICF Next senior partner Jeff Olson, also an Olson Engage alumnus, departed soon after. He now runs his own consultancy after spending two years as Rite Aid’s communications head. In July, partner Jeremy Mullman left ICF Next after 13 years to lead M Booth’s media relations practice.