In the aftermath of 9/11, Dubai Ports World was forced to divest all of its U.S. port operations, selling its long-term leases to Highstar Capital. Only one major port authority balked and demanded nearly $85 million to approve the deal. Highstar’s lawyers and lobbyists couldn’t get the port authority to budge. At that point, WMG was brought onto the team.
Strategy & Tactics
By relying on its long-term relationships with nationally-respected journalists, WMG used aggressive yet very discrete earned media to convince opponents that whatever benefits the millions of dollars might bring would be more than offset by the loss of public goodwill and its standing among other key opinion leaders and policy makers.
As a result, opponents dropped their demands and approved the deal. One of Highstar’s lead strategists later said, “Washington Media Group saved us a lot of money, $85 million to be exact.”
Additionally, Highstar Capital, changed the name of its new acquisition to Ports America. Ports America immediately turned to the Washington Media Group for help in creating their brand in key port cities around the country.
The results of the effort were definitive, as Ports America was successful in building the largest independent ports business in the US with winning campaigns bids in Oakland, Baltimore and Bayonne.
Highstar Capital / Ports America