Dolphin, led by founder and CEO Bill O’Dowd, has acquired the bicoastal firm launched in 2016 by industry veterans Nicole Vecchiarelli and Andrea Oliveri, who serve as co-CEOs. Special Projects will become part of the Dolphin portfolio but operate autonomously under its existing moniker. The firm focuses on talent booking and event production for high-end clients in media, entertainment, fashion and other sectors. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Dolphin said it would be “immediately accretive.”
Vecchiarelli and Oliveri came together as business partners seven years ago after both had worked as editors as well as brand and franchise managers for such magazines as W, Teen Vogue, Elle, InStyle, Details and DuJour. The two have helped craft the Wall Street Journal’s annual WSJ Innovator Awards since the event’s inception in 2011.
The pair leaned on their editorial sensibilities and well-honed skill for wrangling talent to grow Special Projects into a busy boutique in the talent booking and events arena. The company is based in Los Angeles and New York and has 10 full-time employees, including its founders.
In 2016 Vecchiarelli and Oliveri saw an opening for a firm devoted to talent booking at a time when digital media was exploding, podcasting was taking off and the biggest legacy media brands were under pressure to expand quickly in new ways.
“We started to understand how vital talent is and how important it is to have the right cultural forecasting to spot up-and-coming talent before they really break,” Vecchiarelli told Variety. “We use that acumen to help create events around talent.”
Vecchiarelli and Oliveri have self-financed Special Projects to date. After seven steady years of growth, even with the curve ball of pandemic conditions shutting down live events for two-plus years, the pair decided the time was right to find a partner to provide capital and administrative support to expand its scope. The founders, who will continue as co-CEOs, emphasize that Special Projects intends to be a free agent working with a wide range of PR, talent agency and management firms, despite joining the Dolphin family of firms.
“We feel so lucky that we get to do what we do,” Oliveri told Variety. “We’re energized by the eco-system we work in every day and the changing landscape of fashion, media and entertainment.”
Talent booking and event production was a missing link in the PR and marketing services group that O’Dowd has systematically built through acquisitions in recent years. He bought up a string of high-profile PR firms: 42West in 2017, Viewpoint Creative in 2018 and Shore Fire Entertainment in 2019. Other shingles under the Dolphin banner include influencer marketing firm Be Social (bought in 2020) and The Door creative and media relations agency (acquired in 2018). The booking, creative content and event services provided by Special Projects will be a natural fit with the work of the PR, influencer and creative marketing specialities offered by Dolphin.
“Earning a place in culture is the best, most lasting way for brands and talent to grow. No one knows that better than Andrea and Nicole, who have perfected the art of brand building through their unique use of celebrity booking and talent curation,” O’Dowd said. “Ideating and executing world-class events is a big part of Dolphin’s future, and adding Special Projects immediately catapults us into the industry-leading position.”
Special Projects clients have included A24, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, AppleTV+, the Apollo Theater, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Bumble, Bustle Digital Group, Chanel, the Infatuation, Max Mara, Meta, the Peabody Awards, Stella McCartney, Uber and W magazine.
Law firm K&L Gates repped Dolphin Entertainment in the acquisition; DLA Piper repped Special Projects.
(Pictured: Special Projects founders Nicole Vecchiarelli and Andrea Oliveri)