Brunswick hires Lincoln Center boss to spearhead global expansion

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Public relations group Brunswick has turned to an outsider to fuel its international growth, hiring the chief of New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as its next boss. 

Henry Timms will replace Neal Wolin, who held senior roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations, as head of the business that manages the reputations of one-third of the companies in the FTSE 100 and a stable of international corporate groups such as AT&T, BlackRock and LVMH. 

The selection of another US-based chief executive reflects the growing internationalisation of Brunswick’s business, founded in 1987 as part of London’s nascent financial PR industry. 

The group now generates more than half its revenues in the US, said chair and co-founder Sir Alan Parker, who sold part of his stake in 2021 to BDT Capital Partners, a US fund run by Warren Buffett’s banker Byron Trott.  

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Timms said in an interview with the Financial Times that Brunswick was “bound to think about geographic spread”, including in the Americas and Asia, once he took over in summer 2024. It could also open new business lines, he said, identifying the growth of artificial intelligence as a specific area where companies would need more advice. 

Brunswick, which reported revenues of £413mn in 2022, has diversified from its traditional public and media relations work into areas such as investor relations; regulation; environmental, social and governance; and geopolitical advice. 

Its operations now include a large US political and regulatory lobbying machine. Former Federal Trade Commission chair Deborah Platt Majoras joined Brunswick’s board last year.

Brunswick did not disclose how much Timms would be paid. The most recent accounts show that the highest-paid director received £3.44mn in 2022.

Recent hires in Europe include Pascal Saint-Amans, who led the OECD’s negotiation of a global minimum tax for companies, and mergers and acquisitions lawyer Steve Cooke, who will join Brunswick when he steps down as boss of “magic circle” law firm Slaughter and May this summer.

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Parker indicated that he still favoured growing organically rather than through acquisitions. “I still can’t find anything exciting to buy,” he said.

Timms was chosen because of his record as a “transformational manager” but would not be tasked with changing Brunswick’s strategy, said Parker, a friend of UK foreign secretary Lord David Cameron. 

Timms has had a five-year tenure at the Lincoln Center, which houses the New York Philharmonic and New York City Ballet, bringing stability after a run of six leaders in six years. He co-founded Giving Tuesday, a philanthropic movement that has raised more than $13bn since 2012.

His 2018 book New Power — on how traditional organisations could learn from “bottom-up” social and political groups — was praised as “a gift to our movements” by Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

“Social issues are business issues”, said Parker, adding that the Ukraine conflict, Black Lives Matter and inequality “are now genuinely issues for [business] leadership”.

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Parker also cited the relevance of Timms’ contacts in financial circles including his inner circle on the Lincoln Center board, which includes Goldman Sachs chief operating officer John Waldron; Centerview Partners founder Blair Effron; and Brad Karp, chair of US corporate law firm Paul Weiss.

Brunswick announced that chief operating officer Helen James will leave the firm and will be replaced by current UK managing partner Tom Burns. Wolin will remain at Brunswick, advising clients as a vice-chair.