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PR firms PMK/HBH and BNC agree to merge

After more than a week of speculation, entertainment public relations and marketing firms BNC and PMK/HBH on Tuesday made it official and said they were consolidating operations.

The merger, to take effect in January, combines PMK/HBH, one of Hollywood’s biggest celebrity public relations agencies, with BNC, a firm that has specialized in corporate clients. Both firms are owned by advertising agency giant Interpublic Group. The new agency will be called PMK-BNC.

But the move is already beginning to stir things up. After an internal memo announcing the pending deal circulated last week, a handful of senior executives announced that they would leave the company, taking key clients with them.

Top PMK/HBH publicists Stephen Huvane, Robin Baum and Andy Gelb quit to launch a new agency, Slate PR, with publicist Ina Treciokas. Huvane’s clients include Jennifer Aniston and Anne Hathaway, while Baum represents Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, among others. Simon Halls, chief executive of PMK/HBH, also said he was leaving, but he hasn’t announced his plans.

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The deal comes during a difficult time for Hollywood’s public relations machine, which is suffering from budget cutbacks at the studios resulting in fewer movies and TV shows -- and therefore fewer opportunities to plug talent -- as well as shrinking media outlets that are reducing entertainment coverage.

BNC Chairman and CEO Michael Nyman, who will become head of the newly merged PMK-BNC, said Tuesday that combining PMK’s talent-oriented base with BNC’s corporate practice would build a unique agency that would better allow brands to link with A-list Hollywood celebrities.

Corporate clients also typically mean a much larger paycheck for agencies. Although celebrities often pay publicists a retainer fee of $3,000 to $5,000 a month, a larger corporate brand might pay as much as $100,000 for monthly services, according to insiders.

“The reality is, yes, in general, corporate clients pay more,” Nyman said in an interview. “But it’s a low-brow understanding of the business to see it only as a function of covering less margins from talent.”

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Although Nyman said he expected a loss in personnel, he called a few of last week’s defections “disappointing.” However, he said further departures weren’t expected because the company wasn’t “looking to cut staff.”

amy.kaufman@latimes.com


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