WASHINGTON — Rabinowitz/Dorf, the premier liberal pro-Israel communications firm in Washington, has split in two after what sources say was a contentious breakup between the two directors, Steve Rabinowitz and Matt Dorf.
"After 13 years together, the firm is breaking up and we'll be working apart from each other going forward," Rabinowitz and Dorf wrote in an email to clients and friends on Monday with "Breaking up is hard to do" in the subject line. "Matt is leaving to start his own business, West End Strategy Team, a strategic communications firm that raises public awareness, influences policy and drives social change, while Steve is returning to Rabinowitz Communications, the messaging, marketing and media firm he started nearly 20 years ago."
Rabinowitz declined to discuss Dorf's reasons for leaving, while Dorf said he wanted to start a firm with a different vision of media strategy.
"It was Matt's choice," Rabinowitz said when reached by phone on Monday evening. "Ask him. To tell you the truth, we didn't discuss it.
"I decided that what was best for me and what was best for the campaigns and clients we were working on was working in a firm that was dedicated to not only getting the great media hits, but helping out clients pick those clips to help effect the change they are trying to effect," Dorf said.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Dorf informed Rabinowitz that he was leaving on Thursday morning, "and then they started dividing staff. Don't think that you can say it was on friendly terms."
"I think it's very clear that Matt had been thinking about this for a while," the source said.
Rabinowitz acknowledged that the split was less than amicable.
"I suppose not," Rabinowitz said when asked if it could be characterized as a friendly parting of ways.
"Yeah, I can't say that that's not true," Rabinowitz said when asked if Dorf's leaving was sudden.
"I suppose it's little different from why most partnerships eventually break up," Rabinowitz said. "I don't think it's so different from a lot of business partnerships."
Dorf, whose new firm West End Strategy includes some staffers who left Rabinowitz to go with Dorf, described the situation in more positive terms.
"We've been together 13 years and decided to go in our own directions very amicably," Dorf said. "Steve and I decided that we were going to split and we told the staff on Thursday."
Dorf said that his new company, which already has office space, a website, a logo, and list of services they provide, came together only recently.
"This was all done very quickly," he said. Dorf's new firm includes six staffers, while Rabinowitz is left with two plus himself.
"They just moved into their new offices," said a source knowledgeable about the split. "They've moved into these new offices and it seemed like they're doing very well. It seemed like firm was quite successful. It's like your parents buying a new house and then getting a divorce."
The Rabinowitz/Dorf breakup also calls into question the fate of the firm's annual "Latkes & Vodkas" Hannukah party.
"I'm sure that Steve will get Latkes & Vodkas as part of the divorce," Dorf said.
Rabinowitz said he's "not going to decide right away" whether to find a new partner.
"I'm blessed to have many many folks in this town that I've done business with and I will in the future, whether or not it's as a partner remains to be seen," he said.
Dorf's name is already gone from the Rabinowitz/Dorf staff bios page as of Monday evening.