BWR Public Relations Shuts Down as Parent Company Combines Operations, Lays Off Staffers

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From left: BWR founders Larry Winokur, Nanci Ryder and Paul Baker

The news, which comes in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, sent shock waves through Hollywood's publicity community Thursday.

BWR — one of Hollywood's long-standing and high-profile public relations, marketing and events firms, once home to dozens of A-list actors and top talent publicists — is no longer. 

Effective immediately, parent company Burson Cohn & Wolfe on Thursday afternoon confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that it is combining the BWR Brand into BCW Entertainment. As a result, some BWR staffers will segue to BCW, while others are being let go. The move comes, in part, due to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not the only reason. 

"Due to a variety of considerations, and the tremendous impact COVID-19 has had on the entertainment industry, we are combining our BWR brand into BCW Entertainment, effective immediately," BCW's Catherine Sullivan tells THR in an emailed statement. "While several of our BWR colleagues remain with BCW in Los Angeles and New York to oversee key client business, sadly we have had to say goodbye to other members of the BWR team. We are incredibly grateful to them for all of their contributions to BWR and the BCW Group, and we will be providing support to them during their transition."

News of the consolidation and shuttering of BWR sent shock waves through the PR industry as reps around town heard the news. It is unclear how many staffers have been let go in the transition. According to various reports, several senior members of BWR's team are expected to start a new company, and it's something the firm has seen in previous months and years, a trend that undoubtedly has had an impact on the overall bottom line.

BWR's team, while once over flowing with talent, has weathered defections in recent years as publicists have left in clusters to form their own firms. It's a trend not unique to BWR but, rather, has been widespread in a competitive industry in which reps can often make more money on their own than feeding monthly retainers to a large conglomerate. 

In December 2018, BWR’s Steven Wilson, Ron Hofmann and Hayley Antonian announced they were leaving to form a new communications company, Scenario, with headquarters in L.A. and New York. The previous summer, Nicole Perna and Melissa Raubvogel — then heads of BWR's talent department — announced they were leaving, along with reps Dominique Appel, Brett Ruttenberg, Jeffrey Chassen and Ashley Mokma, to form Imprint PR. In 2014, high-profile rep Leslie Sloane departed BWR as co-president to launch her firm Vision PR.

There were still big names at BWR this week, however. Cindy Guagenti, Gary Mantoosh, Jamie Skinner, Lisa Perkins, Alex Spieller, Adri Palmieri, Mila Geffner, Sarah Yorke and Paulette Kam and Fay Milman all served as reps, while BWR's client list included such talent as Adam Sandler, Matt LeBlanc, Anthony Anderson, Zoe Saldana, Regina Hall, Luke Hemsworth, Garrett Hedlund, Julia Fox, Peter Gallagher, Anna Kendrick, Connie Britton, Danai Gurira, Marcia Gay Harden, Mario Lopez, Padma Lakshmi, Glen Powell, Kathryn Newton, Tatiana Maslany, Melissa Leo, Kyle Richards, Ephraim Sykes and dozens of others. 

President Eric Green oversaw offices in New York and L.A. THR on Thursday reached out to Green for comment, but did not hear back as of press time.

BWR was founded in 1987 by Paul Baker, Larry Winokur and Nanci Ryder. It grew alongside peer companies like Rogers & Cowan, PMK and Bragman Nyman Cafarelli to become one of the industry's top PR firms with divisions including lifestyle, special events, corporate, entertainment PR and social media divisions. In 2000, it was acquired by Ogilvy and later became part of the roster of BCW, recognized as one of the world's top PR firms.