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Tom O’Neill merges his PR firm with D.C. agency, keeps control of lobbying practice

O'Neill and Associates will split in two, but still work closely together

Thomas O’Neill III has merged his namesake public relations firm with a Washington, D.C.-based agency, but will hold onto his lobbying practice.

The deal with the D.C. firm Seven Letter essentially divides up ownership of O’Neill and Associates into two parts: O’Neill, who is 75, keeps the lobbying business under the same name, while Seven Letter partners Erik Smith and David DiMartino fold the PR operation into their firm, Seven Letter. O’Neill will hold an equity stake in Seven Letter after the deal closed this week, and will remain involved in its management. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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O’Neill is a former lieutenant governor and son of former House speaker Tip O’Neill. He started the business that became O’Neill and Associates in 1991.

The two former divisions of O’Neill and Associates will still work closely together; a few of the 10 public relations professionals who join Seven Letter will also continue to lobby, and be paid through O’Neill for that work. About 20 employees will remain with O’Neill’s lobbying practice, one of the largest and busiest lobbying firms in Boston.

They will also continue to work under the same roof in Boston, although where that roof will be has yet to be determined. O’Neill and Associates had been housed in a standalone building at 31 New Chardon St., in the shadow of the Government Center garage, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm is now working remotely and will need a new space: A spokesman for O’Neill said he has sold the property.

DiMartino and Smith see this deal as a way to expand into Massachusetts; DiMartino grew up in Milton, Smith in Hatfield. They started their business as Blue Engine Message & Media in 2006, and have grown it through several acquisitions in the past decade, although this is their first move into their native state.

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O’Neill had sold his company to marketing giant Omnicom in 1999, and then bought it back about three years later.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.