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News Analysis 13 Apr 2021 - 3 min read

PwC CMO Advisory co-architect Justin Papps exits to join Russel Howcroft in billionaire-backed start-up consulting group

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

L to R: Russel Howcroft, Luke Sayers and Justin Papps.

PwC’s CMO Advisory unit has lost another partner and its co-architect, Justin Papps, who will leave in August to join former PwC partner and Chief Creative Officer Russel Howcroft at the Melbourne-based boutique consulting and wealth management group started by PwC’s former CEO, Luke Sayers.

What you need to know:

  • Founding member of PwC’s CMO Advisory Unit Justin Papps to exit for a venture backed by start-up boutique consulting group Sayers
  • Sayers is backed by billionaire trucking magnate Lindsay Fox and Seek co-founder Andrew Bassat
  • Papps to launch a venture blending consulting and executional capabilities in the marketing services sector
  • PwC insists CMO Advisory is growing, will remain inside its Strategy& consulting unit
  • Papps replacement being finalised   

Justin Papps is the latest consulting partner to switch firms in a hectic game of musical chairs between the big four consulting firms and independents. 

PwC confirmed Papps departure, who is understood to be setting up a venture-backed by Sayers Group, which has billionaire trucking magnate Lindsay Fox and Seek co-founder Andrew Bassat as investors.

Howcroft, who left PwC last year for the breakfast slot on Melbourne’s 3AW, is also a partner at Sayers.

Papps declined to comment beyond a PwC statement.

Details are sketchy but it is understood he is being backed for a start-up that will blend consulting and executional capabilities in the marketing services sector.

Market speculation has been swirling for at least a year about the future of PwC’s CMO Advisory unit, which was started by Papps and Howcroft – both one-time ad agency executives.

At one point, CMO Advisory had four PwC partners – Howcroft, Papps – who was made a partner three years ago – and Mike McGrath and Lawrence Goldstone.

McGrath and Goldstone were the two PwC partners who oversaw the setup up of CMO Advisory. They were active at the Cannes Lions festival four years ago with Howcroft in the lead-up to Howcroft’s exit to PwC from Network Ten, where they developed part of the CMO Advisory blueprint from PwC’s boat.  Mike McGrath detached from CMO Advisory several years ago and Goldstone is now understood to have done likewise.

CMO Advisory has moved around various PwC structures and is currently housed in its Strategy& unit, rebadged after the firm acquired Booz Allen in 2013.

Last year, Strategy& consulting revenues were expected to decline 47%, according to the AFR. In recent weeks it has lost its head of retail and consumer advisory, Chris Paxton, and director Miles Tan to EY’s Port Jackson Partners.

PwC says CMO Advisory is growing and will remain a unit inside Strategy&. It is in the final stages of determining Papps replacement, who leaves in August.

In a statement to Mi3,  David McKeering, PwC Australia Consulting Leader said:  “Justin was the founding member of the CMO Advisory practice which has grown over the last four and a half years to provide brand and marketing advice to some of the country's leading brands and government agencies.  We thank Justin for his contributions to the firm and wish him all the best with this exciting new chapter in his career."

A formal PwC statement from Justin Papps said: "It is great to be able to sign off from PwC with the practice in great hands and doing exceptional work across the country.  I am enormously proud of the work the team has done and what we have been able to build together, particularly since linking with the team at Strategy& and the broader consulting team."

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Paul McIntyre

Executive Editor

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