Buyout king Kekst in own takeover deal

July 2, 2008

Kekst, the PR agency that made its name advising on takeovers, was on the receiving end today as it sold out to French advertising firm Publicis. Founded by Gershon Kekst in 1970, the firm is famed for advising on deals like the lenghty, frenzied battle for RJR Nabisco, the leveraged buyout in the 1980s which was immortalized in Barbarians at the Gate (Kekst’s client in that deal was buyout giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts).

Barbarians authors Bryan Burrough and John Helyar put Kekst’s influence this way in the book:

“For years Wall Street public relations has been dominated by a single firm, Kekst & Co., and its well-connected founder, Gershon Kekst. Kekst spokespeople can be found in every major takeover, dishing dirt on that day’s enemy alongside their formal, routine press releases. It was on Gershon Kekst’s advice that Kohlberg Kravis managed to stay out of the headlines for nearly a decade.”

The Publicis/Kekst deal size wasn’t disclosed, but that’s hardly surprising. Better known for what he doesn’t say than what he does, Gershon Kekst was described in a lengthy 1996 profile by Institutional Investor as having “an aura of mystery. His firm does not trade on its roster of clients or even talk about them. Even competitors who have worked opposite his firm on deals know little about Kekst. “Have you seen him?” one asks. “What does he look like?”.

According to the latest figures from M&A research firm Mergermarket, Kekst is indeed still the most powerful advisor on Wall Street, advising on 67 deals in the US worth $108 billion.

Top 20 PR advisers to U.S. M&A H1 2008

House Value (USD mln) Deal Count
Brunswick Group 53,481 26
Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher 37,800 26
Owen Blicksilver Public Relations 34,077 15
Abernathy MacGregor Group 33,363 43
Sard Verbinnen & Co 26,141 28
CNC 24,949 4
Finsbury Group 18,617 13
FD 18,138 39
Robinson Lerer & Montgomery 10,003 5
Hill & Knowlton 7,589 5
Maitland & Co 5,500 4
Qorvis Communications 4,897 1
Citigate 4,529 19
JKL Group 4,100 1
Cubitt Jacobs & Prosek Communications 3,675 6
Fleishman-Hillard 3,296 8
Sloane & Company 3,078 11
M:Communications 2,829 3
Sitrick and Company 2,600 2

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