Advertisement
  1. Business

Tampa PR expert Harry Costello to leave Hill+Knowlton

Hill + Knowlton Strategies Florida chairman Harry Costello is leaving the firm at the end of June after 35 years. [Courtesy of Harry Costello]
Published Jun. 12

TAMPA — After nearly four decades of handling some of Tampa's highest profile public relations challenges, Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Florida chairman Harry Costello told colleagues Tuesday he will leave the firm on June 28.

"It has been quite a ride at H+K, but it is now time to find a new adventure," Costello said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

In his 35 years at Hill+Knowlton, Costello, 71, has taken on a series of evermore responsible jobs: vice president, executive vice president, general manager for Tampa and chairman of Florida operations, which entails overseeing offices in Tampa, Tallahassee and Miami. He said in an interview he doesn't plan to retire, but now seems like a good time to let the next generation of leaders take over.

In 1984, during his first week on the job, Costello had to fly to New York to tell company vice chairman Dick Cheney — the pioneering public relations executive, not the future vice president — that a major client, Beneficial Corp., which developed Harbour Island, had decided to move its account from Cheney to the company's Tampa office. Costello said he was worried, but Cheney thanked him because he despised Beneficial chairman Finn Caspersen.

A graduate of the University of South Florida, where he majored in political science and minored in economics, Costello worked at the now-defunct Tampa Times as a political writer and business editor for three years and was business and financial news editor at the Tampa Tribune for eight years before joining Hill+Knowlton. In 1988, Excel magazine wrote that Costello and another Tribune editor, Roy Bertke, turned out coverage "that was so influential that John Naisbitt, in his best-selling book Megatrends, was compelled to name Tampa as one of a select group of American cities on the rise," the St. Petersburg Times reported at the time.

Outside the newsroom, Costello became a go-to source on crisis management and a wide range of other topics: the rise of professional athletes as highly sought-after brand representatives, Brandon's search for a community identity, Exxon's response to the Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the dynamics of Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium negotiations, among other things.

In 1990, he said the desire for instant communication would enhance business efficiency but also put companies under a lot of pressure to respond to consumers faster.

In 1991, he served in Saudi Arabia for nearly a year as a reservist helping to coordinate the withdrawal of U.S. troops following the Persian Gulf war. (He retired from the Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve at the rank of commander after 30 years.)

Costello also remained plugged-in enough that colleagues called him "Mr. Lunch." His roster of clients included Lykes Bros., CF Industries, Port Tampa Bay (then known as the Tampa Port Authority), University Community Hospital, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which hoped that hiring him would help it get past a money-laundering scandal that was the basis for the 2016 movie The Infiltrator.

"That's been the fun of the job," he said. "Every phone call was a new adventure and a new challenge."

MORE: Go here for more Business News

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  2. Snack-focused delivery app GoPuff launched in Tampa in February. It serves the area surrounding the University of South Florida. GoPuff
    Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Funyuns? GoPuff says it has the data for which snack Floridians love the most.
  3. "House Hunters," shot at a home in the Bayshore Beautiful area.  (Times | 2007) Tampa Tribune
    Whang, 57, was also a comedian and actress.
  4. The city is accepting applications for its Commercial Revitalization Program. The city has allocated $175,000 for the program this year.
  5. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  6. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
    The work is expected to be complete by spring 2021.
  7. Job applicants seek information about temporary positions available with the 2020 Census, during a job fair in Miami on Wednesday designed for people fifty years or older. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    The state added 22,500 jobs in August.
  8. Homeowner Cheryl Murdoch, 59, explains the workings of the Philips Smart Mirror in her bathroom. Murdoch and her husband live in the Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon, where some residents are piloting new health technologies inside their homes. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    In Pasco’s Crystal Lagoon community, AdventHealth and Metro Development Group are testing in-home technology aimed at keeping people away from the hospital.
  9. A company called Flock Safety is selling automatic license plate readers to neighborhood associations to cut down on crime, and Tampa neighborhood Paddock Oaks is one of their customers. Pictured is a Flock camera on Paddock Oaks Dr. | [Luis Santana | Times] LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Atlanta-based Flock Safety has provided 14 area communities with high-speed, high-definition cameras for surveillance.
  10. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement