Qorvis acquired by global PR firm Publicis

District-based Qorvis Communications, an independently owned public relations shop since its founding in 2000, has been acquired by global public affairs giant Publicis Groupe.

The move, which is Publicis’ first acquisition in the Washington market, is the latest sign the communications industry is continuing to consolidate as the line between public relations, lobbying and public affairs fades. Other firms that are attempting to diversify include Levick, the crisis communications firm that this month announced intentions to grow its lobbying capabilities, and McBee Strategic, which started as a lobby shop, but increased its digital strategy offerings last year.

The terms of the Qorvis deal were not disclosed.

Qorvis will become part of Publicis’ public relations arm, MSL Group, and adopt the name Qorvis MSL Group, with Qorvis founder and Managing Partner Michael Petruzello as president. Petruzello will report to Renee Wilson, president of MSL Group North America.

The acquisition boosts MSL Group’s D.C. presence from about 30 professionals to more than 100, making MSL Group one of the top five communications operations in Washington in terms of revenue and number of professionals, Wilson said.

“Having a presence in D.C. is incredibly important,” Wilson said. “So many clients around the world are looking for communications solutions coming out of this market.”

Publicis has 60,000 employees globally, and its revenue for 2012, the last full year for which financial figures were available, was nearly $9 billion, according to the company’s 2012 annual report. MSL Group has about 3,500 employees.

Qorvis counts foreign governments, corporations and trade associations among its clients, including Blackboard, Sprint, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Republic of Cyprus and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Petruzello said that as clients continue to expand globally, Washington is playing a key role in their business decisions.

“Today, the issues of Washington — legislative, regulatory issues — they don’t recognize national boundaries any longer,” he said. “The issues out of Washington affect our clients in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. Washington has become a financial center also, which puts more emphasis on this market for financial institutions.”

Publicis is slated to merge with one of its biggest rivals, Omnicom, later this year. The deal, which has cleared regulatory hurdles in the United States and Europe, would create the world’s largest marketing and public relations operation.

“The industry has seen a lot of consolidation over the last 10 years,” Petruzello said. “A lot of that is because our clients themselves have become more centralized in terms of global communications. Rather than looking to hire [geographic] market to market, they’re looking for one agency to work with on a global basis ... It used to be you’d go to a digital shop for digital, a PR firm for PR, a lobbying firm for lobbying. Now all those communications have consolidated themselves and the industry has followed suit.”

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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