The investment group led by industry veteran Edward Kelley that acquired A.T. Kearney Executive Search earlier this year is rolling out big changes for the company, including a new corporate name and six new offices.
Kelley, who was named CEO after the management buyback in January from Plano, Texas-based Electronic Data Systems Corp., was unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman for the Chicago-based search firm, which has used the A.T. Kearney name since its founding in 1946, says the plans will be made public July 17.
Switching gears after some 60 years with the same name will offer challenges, notes Christopher Hunt of the Hunt-Scanlon Corp., a market research firm in Stamford, Connecticut.
"The A.T. Kearney brand holds a lot of weight and recognition," he says. "Rebuilding that level of awareness is not going to happen overnight."
Brand recognition is particularly crucial when it comes to drumming up business in new markets or among new clients. Hunt, however, anticipates a relatively smooth transition with minimal impact on business volume since the core group of company consultants will remain intact.
Worldwide, A.T. Kearney Executive Search generated $40 million in revenue during 2005, according to Hunt. There are about 60 employees throughout North America, Europe, Asia and South America specializing in the fields of consumer goods and retail, education, government and not-for-profit, financial services, industrial markets, technology, and life sciences and health care.
Domestic numbers reveal the 38 A.T. Kearney Executive Search consultants in the United States accounted for more than half the revenue total, generating $27 million in 2005, according to Hunt. He believes they will transfer their expertise and relationships to the new entity.
Before his new position as CEO, Kelley held high-profile positions in the industry, including that of president and board member of Korn/Ferry International's European operations. Korn/Ferry is the world's largest executive search firm, with $452 million in global fee revenue last year and 474 consultants worldwide. Another element that bodes well for the new company is the surge in demand for executive searches.
"The reignition of the world economy makes this an opportunistic time to get into the business of executive search," says Peter Felix, president of the Association of Executive Search Consultants in New York.
Global revenues for executive searches are pegged at $7.5 billion for 2005, which follows a period from 2000 to 2003 when a worldwide recession caused demand to plummet by 35 percent, according to Felix.
Having international operations is important because there are many burgeoning opportunities overseas, Felix explains. A.T. Kearney Executive Search has 25 offices in 13 countries. Emerging markets, like China, India and Brazil, have a growing demand for executive search firms. But it is seasoned markets, like North America and Europe, where most business still takes place. Combined, those two markets accounted for close to 80 percent of revenues globally in 2005 Felix says.