NEW YORK, April 15—Burson-Marsteller has hired Edward Owens as managing director to lead the agency’s investor relations and financial services practice. Owens was previously senior vice president of global consulting at Thomson Financial, where he was responsible for building a European consulting business and managing a both U.S.-based and cross-border IR teams.
Burson-Marsteller’s investor relations unit is part of the U.S. corporate practice, but like most other big agencies, B-M has seen its share of the IR market decline in recent years. According to corporate practice leader Judi Mackey, the firm has about 20 people dedicate to investor relations.
The big agencies lost out on project work—special situations including IPOs and mergers and acquisitions—to specialist firms. Their pricing structure made it difficult to take on small and mid cap companies for ongoing IR work, while large cap companies have handled more and more of their IR in-house.
But both Mackey and Owens believe there is an opportunity to grow the investor relations part of the business by packaging IR as part of an integrated program.
“Specialist firms take a narrower view of IR than we do,” says Mackey. “We consider investor relations to be part of our corporate practice, and that helps us deliver a more integrated offering. We have a change communications function, for example, that can be integrated with IR for M&A and Chapter 11 communications.”
The firm recently handled the Chapter 11 restructuring communications for Ames Department Stores, for example.
Says Owens, “I like the fact that IR here is seen in the context of the overall mission of the corporate and financial practice, which is to provide a fully integrated communications advisory offering for corporations. I also think we have a tremendous opportunity because we understand how to communicate both the tangible elements of a companies performance and the intangibles investors are increasingly interested in.”
He says he expects the IR team to be able to take advantage of the research done by B-M into the role of the CEO in a company’s reputation, providing specific advice on how CEOs should communicate most effectively with shareholders.
As for the lucrative M&A arena, Owens says B-M probably won’t be attacking it directly. “We are interested in providing on-going IR counsel to companies at every stage of their life cycles,” he says. “We are interested in being there when a company is born, at the IPO stage, or when it decides to list in the U.S., if it’s an international company, or when it is acquired or needs to restructure. But we are focusing on more opportunities from existing clients, not on project business.”
Owens has particularly strong credentials in the IPO arena. Prior to Thomson, he was managing director for Georgeson & Co.’s investor relations consulting group, which was acquired by Thomson. His clients included ABB, , Boeing, Campbell Soup, DaimlerChrysler, Fortis, and TRW. Previously, he was vice president in Citicorp’s investment banking sector, where he implemented 70 ADR programs for clients such as Alcatel, Ericsson, Hanson, Hitachi, KLM and WPP.
Owens replaces Ted Lowen, who left the firm last fall. Mackey says the firm is looking to add more talent in the IR practice.