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Publicis Group buys out BBH

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MUMBAI: A wave of consolidation is sweeping across global media agencies. France-based media communications conglomerate Publicis Groupe has taken full control of Britsh creative agency Bartle, Bogle Hegarty (BBH), acquiring its remaining 51 per cent stake for an undisclosed amount.

In a separate deal, Publicis has also gobbled up Brazilian idea shop NEOGAMA/BBH, buying out the founder and chief creative officer Alexandre Gama‘s 64 per cent stake. The balance 34 per cent was held by BBH.

NEOGAMA/BBH, which ended 2011 with a revenue of 42.2 million euros, will retain its name and continue to be led by Gama. Triacom and Made in Moon, the two affiliate agencies that provide digital and retail consulting services respectively, have also become part of Publicis Groupe through this deal.

Post the acquisition, Gama will succeed BBH founding partner Sir John Hegarty as worldwide chief creative officer (WCCO) and group chief executive officer Simon Sherwood will take over as group chairman. Gwyn Jones will be group chief executive officer and Neil Munn, who is currently Zag (BBH‘s brand ventures company) CEO, has been given additional responsibility as group chief operating officer. The founding partner duo of Bogle and Hegarty will continue their roles in the creative sphere, but will not be actively involved in the executive functions at the agency. Bogle will also be involved in coaching and mentoring the new management team.

The Board of the BBH holding company will consist of three members of the Publicis Groupe Management Board - Maurice Lévy, Jean-Yves Naouri, and Jean-Michel Etienne along with ZenithOptimedia global CEO Steve King, Bogle, Hegarty and Sherwood. This board will delegate full responsibility and authority for the day-to-day management and operation to a BBH Global Management Team led by Gwyn Jones.

Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO Maurice Lévy said, "These transactions will enable the unification of the BBH network. Publicis Groupe has been a good partner to BBH and NEOGAMA/BBH over the past ten years; we‘ve managed to understand the rare and special company ethos of BBH, its symbol (the black sheep) and its community of men and women, who are recognized as some of the best professionals in our industry. Faithful to our motto, ‘Viva la Difference,‘ we have decided, together with Nigel, John and Alexandre, to engineer an integration that will preserve and protect their specific culture, their working methods, and the characteristics of the agencies through an approach of ‘autonomy inside‘ the Groupe. BBH‘s management will continue to be independent and the network will develop in its own way, in its own style, while benefiting from the support of Publicis Groupe‘s resources to accelerate its growth both geographically and via the expansion of its capabilities into more diverse areas."

BBH, founded in London in 1982 by John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and Sir John Hegarty, had reported revenues of 112.2 million euros (excluding Brazil) in 2011. The agency employs close to 1000 people worldwide and has to its credit many iconic campaigns like Audi‘s "Vorsprung durch Technik", Johnny Walker‘s "Keep Walking", British Airways‘ "To Fly. To Serve", Axe Deodorant‘s "The Axe Effect" and the most recent "The Web is what you make of it" for Google.

Bogle said, "The decision was very clear. We were looking for an opportunity that would ensure that our agency maintained a high degree of autonomy and could continue to abide by the values characterised by the black sheep. The key point for us was the preservation of our operational independence in managing the BBH brand, which has produced almost uninterrupted growth for thirty years. The new ownership not only ensures our autonomy, but brings us considerable advantages through Publicis Groupe‘s resources and global infrastructure."

Hegarty added, "Creativity is at the very heart of BBH. The quality of our work and the people who produce it have always been central to our success and will continue to be so into the future."

Headquartered in Sao Paulo, with an office in Rio de Janeiro, NEOGAMA/BBH was founded in 1999 by Gama and today employs a staff of approximately 270. In 2002, the agency merged with BBH.

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