The leadership of BCW Group subsidiary HZ completed a buyback of the agency this month. 

HZ’s leadership started a “strategic consideration” of its future when Corey duBrowa succeeded Donna Imperato as BCW’s CEO last summer, said HZ president Katie Hooper (pictured). The group began actively working toward a deal in Q1.  

Katie Hooper, president, HZ. (Photo used with permission)

HZ’s five female leaders — Hooper, COO Deena Smith, chief client officer Justine Henning, VP of finance Winnie Lee and chief strategy officer Nicole Wyche — now own the independent agency. Financial details of the buyback were not disclosed. 

“While we would all agree we’ve successfully applied our creative skills and delivered great work for many of BCW’s clients, what we found over the experience was the solutions that HZ offers more typically align with those needed by chief marketing officers and brand leaders versus those needed by communications leads,” Hooper said. 

Following agency holding company WPP’s announcement in January that it plans to merge BCW with Hill & Knowlton to become Burson, the leadership of both BCW and HZ felt that Burson’s focus on building reputational capital for clients, working with CEOs and chief communications officers, wasn’t aligned with HZ’s primary focus.

“We collectively saw it as a logical moment to take a step back and strategically consider what’s the best play here for HZ given where Burson is headed,” Hooper said, noting that the process was a “extremely collaborative, positive strategic decision.” 

HZ had layoffs after the buyback, but the reduction was “not a significant number” of its staff, Hooper said. The firm now has 60 employees. 

The layoffs were a result of “needing to make some cost decisions” that would give the agency “more maneuverability to grow successfully,” Hooper said. 

HZ will continue to partner with BCW and WPP on client work for the foreseeable future, according to Hooper. Reemerging as an independent agency six years after it was acquired, HZ’s goal is to focus on creative and consumer-oriented brands, Hooper said. 

“Our heritage centers around brand and consumer brands specifically, so we’re certainly going through the process of redefining who we want to be as an agency, but it will center around creative and relevant storytelling,” she said. 

BCW, formerly Burson Cohn & Wolfe, purchased HZ in 2018, shortly after WPP brought together Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller. HZ has worked with clients including DoubleTree by Hilton, CES, Rockefeller Center, the Washington Wizards and Organic Valley, according to the firm’s website. 

“We are grateful for the partnership of everyone at HZ and their contributions to our business,” a BCW spokesperson said via email. “We wish [Hooper] and her team every success in the future.”

WPP financial communications and capital market advisory firm Buchanan Communications also joined the Burson network, effective immediately, this month. Buchanan will be a brand within Burson, alongside H&K, GCI Health and AxiCom. BCW Group’s other subsidiaries include Direct Impact and Prime Policy Group. Agency brands that sit under Hill & Knowlton, include 3K, Blanc & Otus, Dewey Square Group, Ideal and JeffreyGroup.

BCW and H&K told staffers this week that duplicate roles are being eliminated as the two WPP firms merge. 

WPP reported 2.4% growth in revenue in its PR division in Q4 of 2023. The holding company noted that H&K “delivered modest growth lapping strong performance in 2022,” which was “partially offset by a weaker year for BCW.” The holding company plans to publish its Q1 earnings on Thursday. 

This article originally appeared on PRWeek US.