PR powerhouse the Dart Group — whose clients include Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott — is expanding and changing its name.
The company now is known as 42West; Allan Mayer, formerly managing director of Sitrick & Co., has joined the L.A. office to establish and head a new strategic communications division for the company.
Mayer joins 42West founder-CEO Leslee Dart and partners Robert Garlock, Amanda Lundberg and Cynthia Swartz. He is the only partner based in the company’s West Coast office.
Coming with Mayer to 42West is Kelly Mullens, his No. 2 at Sitrick.
Dart said the decision to change her company’s name came with its gradual expansion over the past few years.
“Ever since Amanda, Cynthia and Robert joined me as partners, it was always clear to me that it was not appropriate for the company to have my name on it,” she said. “We’ve been searching for a new name for a long time.”
The name 42West is symbolic of the company’s further integration as a bicoastal company. The number represents the company’s New York location on 42nd Street, where it moved into a new 12,000-square-foot office last month. The L.A. office (West is a nod to the West Coast) is in Century City and is being expanded.
Dart said the Dart Group — and now 42West — has operated as an anomaly in the entertainment PR world because it’s been headquartered out of New York, not L.A. But that is gradually changing, most notably with the arrival of Mayer.
“Most of the PR companies in the entertainment business have a big L.A. office and a smaller New York office,” Dart said. “We’re the only one where the bulk of our strength originates in the New York office. We’re doing things differently than most people, and I like to think that’s one of our strengths.”
As for the logic of a strong New York base, Dart said: “The media is headquartered in New York. That’s where the decisions get made. And what we do is, after all, about the press.”
In its latest incarnation, 42West has a staff of 36, with 22 working in New York and 14 in L.A.
Besides boosting the company’s West Coast presence, the arrival of Mayer will establish 42West’s entry into the strategic communications business, which includes reputation and issues management, litigation support, corporate positioning and strategic communications counsel for the entertainment industry.
At Sitrick, where Mayer worked for nine years, he counseled Sony on “The Da Vinci Code” and advised Universal/DreamWorks on Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”
Mayer said he expects his former studio clients to continue calling, and he’s bringing clients with him. He’s consulting on New Line projects including “The Nativity Story,” the story of the Virgin Mary before the birth of Christ. He also has begun working with Newmarket on “Death of a President,” which depicts the fictional 2007 death of President Bush.
In addition to film companies, Mayer’s clients represent a wide variety of industries, from sports (the Major League Baseball Assn., the Los Angeles Dodgers) to luxury goods (the World Diamond Council).
Although Sitrick & Co. built its reputation on crisis management, Mayer said his main focus at 42West will be long-term strategic counseling, an area that is less about finessing a crisis that’s already occurred and more about how to avert such a crisis from happening.
“Strategic issues are very challenging and very important, because so much of what we do in the entertainment business is not a one-shot deal,” Mayer said. “Movies and franchises have a long life and there are long-term considerations. One of the basic rules of crisis management is that the best way to get out of a crisis is to not get into one in the first place. And the way to avoid having a crisis is to be strategic.”
42West’s other divisions are movie marketing, run by Dart, Lundberg and Swartz; and talent, headed by Garlock and Dart.
The movie marketing team, which includes senior execs Tom Piechura and Kerry McAleer, is working on “Babel,” “The Departed” and “Dreamgirls.”
The talent division, which includes with senior exec Amanda Silverman, reps clients including Gael Garcia Bernal, Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet and Tom Hanks.
Before working at Sitrick, Mayer was a founding editor of Buzz magazine, a senior editor of Newsweek and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Mullens joined Sitrick in 2004 as a senior executive in the firm’s entertainment practice. Previously, she was a senior communications exec at Sony Corp. of America and Universal Music Group. She was also a VP at the international public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard.