BOSTON — Shift CEO/co-founder Todd Defren is stepping down from the agency next week, 18 months after the firm was sold to Canadian agency National PR.

Last year's deal with National PR  — which is part of the RES Publica holding group —was part of National’s long-term plan to enter the US market. Shift managing partner Amy Lyons will take over running the firm as Defren steps down on November 17. 

"Yes, I’ve resigned from SHIFT and will retire from the PR industry next week," Defren confirmed to the Holmes Report. "I’ll be spending my days with my bride, devoted to various volunteer activities."

Jean-Pierre Vasseur, president and chief executive officer of Res Publica, said Defren's departure "doesn't change our long-term strategy of investing in the US and Europe."

The company today also unveiled a new holding company — Avenir Global — that National will exist within. The new holding company will manage National's five operating brands: Canada’s National Public Relations, international healthcare firm Axon Communications; the UK's  Madano; and Shift.

“The reshaping of operations under Avenir Global reflect the firm’s presence as an innovative global company with a management philosophy that values a long-term growth strategy and that puts its people and clients at the centre of decision-making”, said Vasseur, who will also be president and CEO of the holding group. “Our vision is to build the global footprint of our firm by aggregating companies and talent to deliver value for our clients.”

Shift is a $20m agency employing about 150 people across its offices in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Austin. Defren co-founded the firm in 2003 with Jim Joyal after buying and re-branding the tech shop Sterling Hager Inc, where they both worked.

Since then, Shift has been known for being an early mover in the social media space when Defren debuted the “social media press release” in the early 2000s. The firm has also been aligned with other digital initiatives, like building an analytics practice under Chris Penn and becoming a Google Analytics certified partner.