MILANSEC Newgate – the communications group formed by the merger of Italian public affairs firm SEC and Porta in September – has made its first foray into the US market, via a joint venture with Bellwether Strategies.

The two new offices in New York and Washington mean SEC Newgate now has 36 offices in 16 countries. It set out North American expansion as one of its growth priorities when it announced its three year plan last November, with CEO Fiorenzo Tagliabue telling PRovoke Media at the time that “Washington DC was the natural starting point for the US plan.”

SEC Newgate US is a newly incorporated joint venture, in which the group has a 55% ownership, with the balance held by US executive partner Bellwether Strategies. The group said: “This will enable SEC Newgate to have a low risk, local presence and approach the US market with well-established key professionals in New York and Washington.”

Bellwether Strategies founder and president Mike Holtzman (pictured), who has more than 20 years in in advisory roles and in US domestic and international policy, will be managing director of the new entity, with Tagliabue as chair.

As SVP public affairs at Weber Shandwick, Holtzman led the campaign for Beijing’s winning bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and was an advisor to Vancouver’s winning bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Previously, Holtzman served as a Middle East/North Africa Advisor in the US State Department’s Office of Policy Planning Staff. He was also a communications advisor in the President’s executive office, and director of public affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations.

He will be joined at SEC Newgate US by seasoned DC communications executive Phil Elwood, who has held senior roles at public affairs firms BLJ Worldwide, Levick and Ipsos and is currently an independent consultant.

Tagliabue said: “Despite Covid-19’s impact on the global current state of affairs, we decided to pursue this fundamental step in our strategic development plan given the paramount importance of the US market.

“I believe SEC Newgate is dealing with this huge market with a solid approach which, while it limits our financial exposure, provides us with a solid base, a very seasoned partner, and a platform for further expansion over the coming years.”