Rick Johnson, Strascina Merge

Albuquerque, N.M., shop Rick Johnson & Co. is merging with smaller, in-town rival Strascina & Partners Advertising next week to form a $30 million agency that proprietors envision as a regional competitor.
The deal combines the state’s two largest agencies under the Rick Johnson banner and will include a public relations subsidiary headed by former Strascina owner Peter Strascina. The new partnership is one that has Johnson chairman and chief executive officer Rick Johnson hopeful that his shop can garner some attention in Colorado, Arizona and even Texas.
“Our phone hasn’t exactly been ringing off the wall for [out-of-state] clients who are putting together agency reviews,” said Johnson, whose pre-merger billings of approximately $22 million are built largely on in-state accounts.
The new agency will have Strascina’s 16 employees moving into Rick Johnson offices, which will now house 71 staffers. The 25 Strascina clients, including Giant Industries and Norwest Banks, agreed to join the Rick Johnson roster of some 40 companies that represent no apparent conflicts, according to agency officials.
Strascina becomes a minority partner in Rick Johnson & Co., and an equal partner to Rick and Debbie Johnson (agency president and wife of Rick Johnson) in the firm to be dubbed Strascina Johnson Public Relations.
Strascina said working full-time in public relations is a move he has been seeking for several years. He has also considered selling his agency recently, most notably in a failed deal involving then-Strascina executives Steve McKee and Pat Wallwork, who have since formed their own Albuquerque shop.
The new enterprise not only ends a friendly 20-year rivalry, but also narrows further a small field of agencies in a market dotted with niche recruitment and car marketing specialists. Strascina is also the second major New Mexico agency to disappear in recent years, following Competitive Edge’s decision to close in late 1996.