Business & Tech

BOLD TYPES

Racepoint’s Weber passes the baton

chris morris for the boston globe

Larry Weber

Boston PR legend Larry Weber is ready to start another chapter.

Weber (at right) just handed the CEO’s title at Racepoint Global to his longtime lieutenant, Peter Prodromou, but will stay on board at the public relations firm as chairman. He’ll also soon finish his sixth book, “Reinventing Good.”

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“I’ll be 62 this year,” Weber says. “I’d like to be a little freer, but I’m still going to be [working on] growth strategies, new business, and thought leadership.”

Prodromou has worked with Weber for two decades, dating back to the days when Weber was turning The Weber Group, his former tech-focused PR firm, into the PR giant known as Weber Shandwick under Interpublic Group’s ownership.

Weber left Interpublic in 2004 and invested in Racepoint, and Prodromou followed. Weber became its CEO, and built Racepoint into the biggest PR agency in Boston, based on the Boston Business Journal’s rankings, with clients that include AT&T, IBM, and Huawei. (His old firm, Weber Shandwick, is No. 2 on that list.)

Weber started to put his succession plan in place in 2013, by making Prodromou the president of Racepoint as Weber merged the business with its sister company, Digital Influence Group, a social media marketing firm.

Racepoint still has ambitious expansion plans. Prodromou, who is 53, says the 200-person firm will open its fourth Chinese office later this month, in Shenzhen. He would like to open a location in Germany later this year, and is also looking at expanding the Washington office.

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Racepoint expects about $35 million in revenue this year, but Larry Weber aims to triple that before he walks away.

“I would go nuts if I retired,” Weber says. “I’d like to see this through. Although I’m prone to exaggeration sometimes, I think we could have close to a $100 million company in total revenue in five years.”
— JON CHESTO

White shoes look totally trippy under a blacklight

Foley Hoag is all-in on marijuana. No, you won’t see clouds of smoke emerging from the high-end law firm’s Seaport headquarters — well, let us know if you do — but a handful of its attorneys have launched a cannabis practice.

The idea is to attract some of the big-money pot players sniffing around the state’s forthcoming recreational pot market, which is projected to be worth $1 billion-plus but is currently shrouded in legislative and regulatory uncertainty.

“It’s highly technical regulatory work that requires attorneys who know both politics and the law,” says Kevin Conroy, a former deputy attorney general and onetime Martha Coakley campaign manager who’s leading the new practice. “We see some similarities to the [2012] gambling initiative, which we worked on.”

Before launching the practice, Conroy polled similar law firms in pot-friendly states such as Colorado. Turns out they made a bunch of money — or, as Conroy puts it, “they had success bringing in clients who could pay our rates.”

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Foley Hoag has launched a blog to track potential changes to the marijuana initiative approved by voters last year, and is already talking to prospective clients.

Oh and for what it’s worth, Conroy hasn’t smoked weed since college, and “never particularly loved it.”
— DAN ADAMS

ArtLifting extends reach

As we’ve reported in this column, the Boston company ArtLifting, which sells art made by homeless and disabled people, achieved a business-plan milestone when it signed its first licensing deal last year: It partnered with Leesa Sleep to sell mattresses that have ArtLifting artwork woven into their fabric.

Since then, ArtLifting has been brokering licensing deals galore.

In each one, designs by its artists — it works with 100 in 17 states — are incorporated into other companies’ products.

The artists receive 55 percent of ArtLifting’s proceeds from each sale, an arrangement meant to financially empower them, since ArtLifting is a “profit-with-purpose business” that aims to do social good as well as make money.

Besides Leesa Sleep, ArtLifting recently paired up with Starbucks (to sell limited-edition gift cards), the California eyeglass maker ThinOptics (to sell glasses and eyeglass cases), East Boston’s Parlor Skis (to sell custom skis), and Costco (to sell posters).

“It’s been a pretty wild last couple of months,” says ArtLifting cofounder Liz Powers.

Many consumers “want to buy from socially conscious companies, and the mainstream companies are aware of that,” she adds, “so it’s really exciting to see them featuring our artists’ work on their brands.”
— SACHA PFEIFFER

Uber competitor Fasten hires Zipcar exec as CFO

Boston-based Uber competitor Fasten has a new money man. Earlier this week, the company announced it has hired David Piperno as chief financial officer.

Piperno has some experience in the transportation space. He joins Fasten from Boston-based Zipcar, the car-sharing service, where he worked as vice president of strategy and finance.

Piperno also has experience with corporate acquisitions. He joined Zipcar from Avis Budget Group after Avis bought the startup in 2012. Earlier in his career, he worked on mergers and acquisitions at Deloitte. But if Fasten hired Piperno in hopes of finding a buyer, Piperno says, it never came up with recruiters.

“No, not at all,” he says. “This is completely about fund-raising and expansion of the existing business model.”

Fasten last year raised about $10 million in venture funding. For now, the company operates in just two cities: its hometown, Boston, and Austin, Texas, where it has sought to take advantage of Uber and Lyft leaving the market due to political disagreements last year. It’s gained some traction in Austin, where Fasten will serve as the official ride-hailing service of the city’s annual South by Southwest conference and music festival. — ADAM VACCARO

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.
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