HMS Partners Merges With Hallmark/Tassone

Columbus, Ohio-Pittsburgh-Florida Union Eyes National Stage
ATLANTA–Principals at HMS Partners and Hallmark/Tassone are betting their merger will give them clout to land an array of national accounts neither agency could win on its own.
“We now have a significant marketing company in advertising, Internet business and public relations,” said Rick Milenthal of HMS. “Those units working together bring a strong, cohesive, marketing program to any blue-chip client.”
The merger, which brings Hallmark/Tassone’s Orlando and Tampa, Fla. offices into the HMS Partners fold, re-establishes Columbus, Ohio-based HMS as a presence in Florida. Merger talks began last summer.
Milenthal remains CEO of the parent company; Bill Binstock, formerly chairman of Hallmark/Tassone, becomes chairman of HMS Hallmark, the ad unit; and Tim Tassone becomes Hallmark’s president and chief operating officer.
The merger restructures HMS Partners to include HMS Hallmark, the ad subsidiary; HMS Success, a governmental affairs and public relations entity; and Motiva, a branding and Interactive unit.
HMS Partners had 1999 billings of $128 million. Pittsburgh-based Hallmark/Tassone had billings of $86.6 million.
“Individually, we were missing calls from consultants when national business came up,” said Tassone. “Combined, consultants will have to recognize our capabilities. Without the numbers, you don’t make the cut.”
An earlier HMS attempt to penetrate the Florida market began with the 1995 acquisition of McFarland Drier. It ended in retreat when HMS sold off its holdings to ex-partner Ric Cooper.
“It was a good financial deal,” said Milenthal, “but Florida remains underserved. This merger is a huge opportunity.” K