NEW YORK, March 19—Manning Selvage & Lee created its technology practice four years ago. Last week, it finally named a global practice leader, former Compaq Computer executive Virginia Cartwright. MS&L chairman and CEO Lou Capozzi is hoping Cartwright, who has corporate and agency experience and a background in international technology work, was worth the wait.

MS&L has a long history in the technology business, starting with the firm’s 20-year relationship with NCR, “back when technology meant ATMs,” Capozzi says. The firm got into the consumer technology business early too, picking up the Intuit account in the late 80s because of its relationship with one of its founders, a former Procter & Gamble marketer. And it has handled Internet-related business for several years also, most notably with e-Bay.

Today, technology accounts for 25 percent of MS&L’s business—about $30 million in fees, enough to place MS&L among the top 15 technology PR firms in the nation. But Capozzi admits the firm doesn’t have a high profile in the tech sector, in part because the practice has not had a high-profile leader except for the brief period after Manning acquired Boston’s Rourke & Company and founder Cathy O’Rourke was at the helm.

“We were waiting for someone with exactly the right combination of experience and skills,” says Capozzi, only half-joking. In fact, MS&L came close to solving its technology leadership problem a year ago, when it was one of the bidders for Cunningham Communication—only to be beaten out by London’s Incepta Group.

“Virginia’s global expertise and in-depth knowledge of the high technology industry was the ideal fit for our global technology practice,” says Capozzi. “She has big company experience on the corporate side, which will be invaluable in giving our account staff a perspective on the challenges facing clients. And she has incredible international experience—she can make a new business presentation in English, French, or Spanish—which will be very important in a sector we believe has the potential to be the most global of all our practice areas”

Cartwright began her career with Text 100 in London, before switching to the corporate side with NCR, opening the company’s office in Munich and then handing pan-European and eventually global PR for the computer company. The then ran European PR for Compaq before being named vice president of marketing communications for the company’s largest division, the Enterprise Solutions & Services Group, where she led a team of 60 communications professionals. 

She left Compaq last year, following the departure of chairman Benjamin Rosen, and briefly headed the New York office of Text 100 before joining MS&L. “MS&L’s global technology practice has long-standing relationships with industry leaders and has a proven track record of delivering strategic, impactful programs,” she says.
                She will lead a team that includes former Philips communications executive Jon Kasle in Boston; Bonnie Quintanilla (whose agency, Capital Relations, was acquired three years ago) in Los Angeles; Brenda Lynch in San Francisco; and Dave Bennett in London. Technology clients range from IBM and Motorola to e-Bay and Intuit to the most recent addition, Microsoft, which selected MS&L to introduce its xbox in Europe.