Austin-based Public Strategies is merging with Hill & Knowlton, a venerable New York-based public relations firm. Jack Martin, PSI's founder and chairman, will be the global executive chairman of the new firm.

Dan Bartlett, who's been with PSI since leaving the George W. Bush White House, will be the president and CEO of the company's U.S. operations. Paul Taffe, now with Hill & Knowlton, will be the global CEO.

Both companies are owned by London-based WPP. Public Strategies, formed by Martin and a group of others with deep political campaign experience, runs public affairs campaigns and does crisis and issue management for its clients. Hill & Knowlton does public relations, communications and marketing.

Though it has a national client base now, PSI started with a Texas focus, working in legislative fights for clients like AT&T (then known as SBC Corp.) and the Association of Electric Companies of Texas. The combined companies will have about 2,300 employees in 83 offices in 44 countries. They'll officially flip the switch on the merger on January 1. For now, both companies will operate under their own names, though they'll share the same top management.

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