Fenton Agency Gets New Leadership

December 22, 2014       Zach Halper      

Fenton, one of the first agencies devoted to helping nonprofits communicate their messages, will be sold by its founder to a new group of investors.

David Fenton, who founded his company in 1982, will remain with the company as chairman (he was previously its CEO). The new owners of the company are Craig J. Leach and James Marcus, who are the principals of Collegium, a holding group specializing in cause marketing agencies. To succeed Fenton as CEO, the agency will hire Bill Werde, who most recently worked as the editorial director of the music trade publication Billboard.

“In a fragmented and rapidly changing media landscape, how do we reach and mobilize citizens to make the world a better place? I’m becoming the head of Fenton to take on this challenge,” said Werde.

Terms of the sale were confidential and the change in ownership is immediate. Current employees will not be affected, according to a Fenton spokeswoman. Fenton will also join the Collegium network of professional service firms.

“Our new owners and CEO have been chosen as the next guardians of our public-interest mission and values,” said Fenton. “We were founded in 1982 to use modern communications to advance public health, environmental protection and human rights. James, Craig and Bill will ensure this legacy and commitment continues, while advancing us further into the new media, mobile content and technology era.”

According to Fenton, discussions about a sale began last June during a conversation with Marcus about transitioning away from the company. Marcus, who has long been a consultant at Fenton, said he would be interested in being one of the people buying the company.

One of the main reasons Fenton is selling the company and transitioning out of his role as CEO is his desire to work more on climate change, which he considers “the most important communications challenge facing humanity.” Fenton said he has committed to staying in his new role as chairman for at least five years, after which he will leave the company.

“It is an awesome responsibility to take this rare entity, a firm that has such a proud history of doing good into the future,” said Marcus.

Fenton has over 60 staff in offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is known for its work with Nelson Mandela, LGBT rights, immigration reform, boosting the sale of organic foods, world-wide education on climate change with the IPCC and Al Gore, keeping hard liquor ads aimed at kids off television, fighting big tobacco and many other issues and causes. Current and recent clients include the Corporation for Battery Recycling, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Save the Children, the Sierra Club and the Wikimedia Foundation.