WASHINGTON — Edelman has acquired Washington strategic consulting firm and long-time partner Basilinna, resulting in the creation of Edelman Global Advisory — a new business designed to address the changing public policy and geopolitical landscape facing corporate clients and the evolving competitive landscape for advisory firms.
Deborah Lehr, founder and chief executive of Basilinna, will serve as managing partner and chief executive of the new business, which will be an independent unit of Edelman parent company DJE Holdings. Edelman Global Advisory will offer strategic counsel on market access and business growth in international markets beyond traditional public affairs.
The new operation will launch with $30 million in business — including clients of Edelman and Basilinna — and Edelman has pledged an initial investment of $10 million that will help bring in new talent and make acquisitions where necessary to establish EGA globally.
“If you look at the nature of the challenges facing our clients, it is clear that government is becoming much more intrusive in markets around the world,” says CEO Richard Edelman.“The complexity of these challenges is demanding more than traditional public affairs solutions. So if you look at issues such as sourcing in China, there are pressures from environmental and human rights groups, which have always been part of the public affairs business, but there are employee pressures, expectations from consumers in both China and international markets, and the threat that government will restrict access to e-commerce sites. These problems require new ways of thinking.”
Edelman said that Lehr, with her background spanning the National Security Council, the US Trade Representative and Commerce Department and the law firm Mayer Brown, brings precisely that kind of thinking to her new role. She also has experience at the New York Stock Exchange and Merrill Lynch, as well as leading institutions such as the Paulson Institute, a think tank focused on US-China relations, green finance, economics, and finance.
He said that the firm would be run as a boutique, separate from Edelman’s various geographic units. The setup will enable EGA to provide seamless international solutions, and make it easier to bring in talent from non-traditional sources, supplementing Edelman’s existing expertise in media relations, think-tank work, and testimony preparation with broader business consulting advice, Edelman said.
“We have to be present in the C-suite and this will give us the capability to do that, to offer strategic counsel and to compete with advisory firms beyond the public relations and public affairs arena,” said Edelman.
Doing that, he added, will require an investment in new talent.“I am quite happy with what we have in Washington, DC,” he said.“But we will need to add expertise in certain sectors. It’s not just financial services and energy anymore. In the wake of Covid it’s healthcare, but it’s also consumer goods. We will bring in talent and we will make acquisitions.” Edelman cited Europe and South Asia as areas where acquisitions were likely.
Lehr, meanwhile, touted the advantages of launching the new business in partnership with Edelman, which has an existing global footprint and a long history of partnering with Basilinna on precisely the kind of complex challenges Edelman described.
“When I was with Mayer Brown, for example, most of my clients did not come through the law firm, and most of our clients won’t come through the public relations firm,” she said.“Most of our relationships are with the CEO or the head of international, and their focus is on solving problems, gaining access to international markets, and business growth.”
Based in Washington, DC, EGA will have offices in major business centers around the world including New York, Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, Dubai, Tokyo, Mexico City and Beijing. The firm will provide bespoke services for clients seeking to enter new markets, expand in existing ones, better understand regulatory change and political risk, and develop strategies to build ties with essential stakeholders.
Leigh Wedell, founder and COO of Basilinna, will serve as co-COO and managing principal. In her 25-year career as a China specialist, Wedell has helped launch and manage four successful business advisory services and two not-for-profits, and also worked with the US Chamber of Commerce, Mayer Brown, the Albright Stonebridge Group, and International Republican Institute.
Gurpreet Brar, a senior member of the current Edelman team, will serve as co-COO and managing principal. His career has seen him live and work in the UK, Brussels, Japan and India, and working with organizations such as the United Nations and European Commission, the UK’s Houses of Parliament and Financial Services Authority. Brar will lead EGA’s Europe region and India team.
Gracie Sun will serve as vice chair for APAC, based out of Shanghai. She is currently the president for China at Basilinna. Edelman’s public affairs leaders will help lead a team of around 100 public affairs specialists from the two firms. They include Aaron Guiterman, who will serve as chief innovation officer and global chair of digital; Ian McCabe, chair of APAC; Darcy Walsh. chair of Canada; and Gonzalo Plecity, chair of Latin America.
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