The owners of one of Detroit's prominent boutique public relations firms have sold their agency to a pair of longtime employees who will rebrand the agency on Monday.
Marilyn Horn and Peter Van Dyke in January bought Detroit-based Berg Muirhead and Associates from founders Bob Berg and Georgella Muirhead, who created the agency in 1998.
The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. Horn, who is now president, has a 60 percent ownership stake and Van Dyke, as CEO, has 40 percent, the latter said.
On Monday, the firm will formally rename itself as Van Dyke Horn Public Relations. It will continue to operate from its office in the Fisher Building, and Van Dyke said the space is undergoing renovation to update equipment and systems, and for the rebranding.
Muirhead and Berg will remain with the agency.
“We love having them here and serving our clients for as long as they wish to,” Van Dyke said.
Muirhead said it was a relief being able to plan for the agency’s future with two people she trusts, a process that Van Dyke said began with talks about five years ago. Until retirement, Muirhead plans to continue working with Berg on their client accounts.
“For the next few years, we plan to be an important part of the agency. We both love what we do, and we think we bring great value to the organization,” said Muirhead, 66, who previously was a senior community relations administrator for the cities of Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Southfield and Detroit.
Berg, 73, was a longtime journalist before moving into political media relations, most notably as Detroit Mayor Coleman Young’s press secretary from 1983-93.
The agency is on pace to do more than $1 million in revenue this year (up from $680,000 in 2015) from a portfolio of about 30 clients, Van Dyke said. Among them are the Somerset Collection mall, Livonia-based Deshler Group, Detroit Future City, the New Detroit coalition, Detroit’s Public Lighting Authority, and the firm’s original first two clients, Detroit-based Strategic Staffing Solutions and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Van Dyke’s older brother James Van Dyke is a partner at another client, Detroit-based real estate development and consulting firm The Roxbury Group.
“When we took over ownership, I wanted to be a million-dollar company and grow from there,” Peter Van Dyke said, noting that the goal was achieved within six months of taking over the company.
The agency, which focuses on midsized clients, has added automotive, retail and real estate clients in recent years.
“We’re really building up the strong foundation of the previous owners,” Van Dyke said. “There’s very little change for clients other than the name. Marilyn and I have a strong understanding of where we can achieve success for our company and for our clients. We don’t go chasing things that aren’t in our realm of success.”
Van Dyke Horn Public Relations has nine employees.
The new ownership structure reflects a change in the fact that Berg and Muirhead both handled clients, but now Van Dyke, 35, is the chief client-handler with Horn, 59, in charge of the administrative and business aspects of the agency, such as budgeting and human resources. She was promoted in 2013 to vice president of finance and administration.
Horn is an Oakland Community College and Wayne County Community College District graduate and had 30 years of finance experience working for Henderson Financial and National City Bank. She also had her own private financial practice for 18 years.
Outside of the agency, which she joined in 2009, she’s involved with the Wayne State University Project One Module, Second Ebenezer Church and The Notary Society.
Van Dyke joined Berg Muirhead in 2006, and became a vice president in 2011 and partner in 2013. He was named a 2010 Crain’s 20 in their 20s honoree for his work in bringing new clients worth $100,000 in revenue, and for launching and managing the firm’s internship program.
A Wayne State PR grad, he has been involved as an organizer with the Marche du Nain Rouge festival and Detroit Artists Market, Detroit Historical Museum, and worked in communications at the Detroit Institute of Arts prior to Berg Muirhead.
Van Dyke said the Berg Muirhead commitment to the community and diversity will continue under the new agency name, and noted that Horn is involved with the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, and the agency sponsors a minority scholarship for public relations students at Wayne State.
“For a lot of the work that we do, it’s important to reflect the diversity of the community we serve,” Van Dyke said.
Terrence Oprea, president and CEO of Detroit-based PR firm MCCI, is a longtime friend and competitor of Berg’s. He had praise for the firm and its original owners.
“Especially when it comes to political and urban affairs, they’ve been one of the handful of go-to agencies,” Oprea said. “They’ve left quite a mark.”
Oprea also said he’s impressed with Van Dyke as a PR leader.
“I think he has a reputation as a very thoughtful, hard-work ethic, next-generation leader,” he said.