Cathie Anderson: Runyon Salzman & Einhorn names new president

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 - 8:12 am

Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn, one of Sacramento's most successful communications firms, named a new president Wednesday who doesn't come from the trio of pioneering women who founded the firm.

The 51-year-old Chris Holben will take the reins from Estelle Saltzman, Saltzman said Wednesday, as part of a succession plan that has been a year in the making.

The firm gets its name from former entertainer Jean Runyon, former journalist Saltzman and former publicist Jane Einhorn, who teamed up in the 1970s to build a communications firm in Sacramento.

They eventually secured contracts with powerful Sacramentans in business and government, and this year Saltzman expects the firm to gross $48 million.

She said that Holben "is the right choice for us for right now and for forever," and she described him as a bright, collaborative leader who exudes quiet strength and a warm personality. Most importantly, she said, he lives Runyon's commitment to work that serves the Sacramento region.

Holben has managed the firm's biggest accounts with companies such as household appliance recycler JACO Environmental and state agencies such as the Department of Public Health for 10 years now.

"I believe that Jean Runyon holds a very special place in the heart of Sacramento and this region," Holben told me. "Estelle has been the consummate businesswoman. Without that partnership, this firm wouldn't be what it is today, and I recognize how important it is to maintain the trust that this firm has in the Sacramento region."

Saltzman and Einhorn remain majority shareholders and will continue to be part of the firm's leadership team, Saltzman said. The other shareholders are Scott Rose, Holben and Paul McClure.

The 51-year-old Holben grew up in Michigan and lived for years in the nation's capital, but he was steeped in California public policy by the time Gov. Pete Wilson asked him to come work in Sacramento in 1993. You see, Wilson had employed Holben on his Washington staff when he was a senator.

Holben went to work for Hill+Knowlton when Wilson left office, running the national firm's Sacramento office and its statewide public affairs practice. Saltzman learned that he might be willing to leave H+K, and she and her partners lured him away.

Holben officially becomes president on Jan. 1. He and Saltzman have prepared for the transition all year.

Viva Las Vegas?

Golden State business owners complain that their peers in Nevada are able to lure away customers because their tax and regulatory burden is so much lower, so imagine my surprise when a reader sent me a note that the California Lodging Industry Association was giving away a free trip to Las Vegas.

"I would have thought someone along the way would have seen the problem with that plan!" wrote the reader. "Unfortunately, I am related to the industry, so I can't sign my name."

The trip is part of a promotion aimed at luring hoteliers to join the association's Facebook page. Thoroughly confused, I called Bobbie Singh-Allen, their chief operating officer.

Her explanation: "It's one of many prizes that we had donated for our expo. We have gift certificates from hotels not only all over the state but also we have them from other parts of the country."

Singh-Allen said her chief concern is ensuring that all vouchers are for independent hoteliers because members of the California lodging association are independents. It's not a bad thing, she said, for independent hoteliers to visit hotels in other states and get ideas.

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