'Un-Holding Co.' Empower, Founded By A Woman, Sold To Another

Empower, the fiercely independent, family-owned, Cincinnati-based agency founded in 1985 by a woman -- Mary Beth Price -- has been sold to another woman: entrepreneur Ashlee Clarke.

Clarke, who becomes Empower's CEO and largest shareholder, has a history in the ad business, founding integrated creative and media agency NitroC, with offices in New York City, Houston and Palm Beach, FL.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but Empower claims media billings of $800 million.

Chris Clarke, a co-founder of SapientNitro (now part of Publicis) also joins Empower as executive chairman.

Chris Clarke founded Nitro in Shanghai in 2001, and merged it with Nitro in 2009. The merged company was acquired by Publicis for $3.7 billion in 2015.



Empower, was last privately purchased in 2018 by Mary Beth Price's son Jim Price, who has stepped down as CEO, but will remain non-executive chairman for one year.

Founded in 1985 by Mary Beth Price, Empower has strong midwestern roots and positions itself as the "Un-Holding Company" differentiated by a "creative media approach."

MediaPost last year named Empower our Creative Agency of the Year, but last week it announced a 15% staff reduction citing lowered growth expectations.

In 2017, MediaPost named Empower our Media Agency of the Year for its focus on media-buying transparency.

Though privately-held, Empower was estimated to have had a staff of more than 200 prior to last week's layoffs.

Editor's Note: This story was updated from an earlier exclusive breaking news version.

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