February 15, 2010

Crisis & Litigation Communicators’ Alliance Helps Shareholders Fight for Fair Deal in Alcon Buy

Situation

Minority shareholders of eye-care product maker Alcon were seeing red after Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis’ bid to buy the company left them with 18 percent less per share than Novartis would pay for parent Nestle’s remaining stake. On Sunday, January 10, 2010 the law firm of Labaton Sucharow LLP filed a lawsuit in New York on behalf of the minority shareholders to challenge the deal. Recognizing the international scope of the case and the important role media coverage would play, Labaton tapped the CLC-Alliance to spearhead the public relations effort.

CLC-Alliance members Hellerman Baretz Communications (U.S.) and Roland Binz Kommunikation & Image (Switzerland) worked seamlessly and quickly to publicize the merits of the suit on both continents. Swiss based Novartis felt the heat after extensive stories were published in the major Swiss business papers, forcing the company to deploy its CEO to defend the deal to the media and the world.

Strategy

Working with a limited budget and severe time constraints, the CLC-Alliance developed a media outreach plan to get the lawsuit maximum publicity in the Swiss press. By drawing attention to the questionable actions of Novartis, the CLCA hoped to garner critical publicity for the drug maker, which would in turn exert pressure on Novartis and secure the minority shareholders a more favorable public reputation.

After drafting a press release and collecting additional commentary from the minority shareholders, as well as attorneys at Labaton Sucharow, the CLC-Alliance reached out to Swiss reporters on Monday morning and facilitated interviews throughout the day.

Results

The CLC-Alliance secured an exclusive story in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland’s leading newspaper, prompting other Swiss news outlets to quickly pick up the story for their own publications. By Tuesday morning, the suit had become a prominent news story on Swiss television, online news platforms, radio, and newspapers.

All of the news surrounding the case was sympathetic to the plaintiffs. With the CLC-Alliance’s swift response, Novartis failed to mobilize quickly, and its “no comment” approach did little to help its already negatively affected reputation.

In a mere 48 hours, the CLC-Alliance successfully managed a complex case across continents under extreme time pressure and helped its client get the positive media exposure it deserved.