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Microsoft's Mark Penn forms ad-marketing investment firm, raises $250 million

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MUMBAI: In a top level shake-up at Bill Gates' Microsoft, the company's executive vice president Mark Penn has quit to form an investment advisory company called The Stagwell Group LLC, which will invest in advertising, research, data analytics, public relations, and digital marketing services. 

The Stagwell Group has closed on $250 million in investment capital and may use leverage to make up to $750 million in acquisitions.

Erstwhile Microsoft CEO and current owner of professional American basketball team Los Angeles Clippers Steve Ballmer is a core investor in the company.

"I believe in the ability to invest, grow and even shake up firms in the marketing industries," Ballmer said.

"With Steve's support and my experience in politics, marketing and technology, I will seek out investments in the exploding digital marketing arena. From finding soccer moms to uncovering Microtrends. I have always believed that data and creativity have to go together and that creative talent needs to be nurtured. We will be looking for investments that understand those principles," Penn said.

"I think now is the time to bring together new kinds of marketing companies into a more dynamic environment – one where entrepreneurs can really thrive," Penn added. 

Penn has been in research, advertising, public relations, polling and consulting for nearly 40 years. For the past three years, he has served in senior executive positions at Microsoft, where as an executive vice president he has been responsible for working on core strategic issues across Microsoft's products, value propositions, and investments and leading the company's competitive research and analysis. He will be transitioning from Microsoft to The Stagwell Group by September.

Penn's experience in growing, building and managing agencies is well-documented. As the co-founder and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland, a market research firm that he built and sold to WPP, he demonstrated value creation in a crowded industry serving clients with innovative techniques from being first with overnight polling to unique ad testing methods used by presidents and major corporations. At WPP, he also became CEO of Burson Marsteller, and managed the two companies to record profit growth during that period.

Penn is also known as the creator behind well-known campaigns and ads, including the 3 am ad, Tony Blair's "forward not back" campaign and led the team on Microsoft's hugely successful 2014 Super Bowl ad when he headed advertising there. He has been a senior adviser to global corporate and political leaders including Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Bill Ford, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Bill Clinton. He has worked globally in over 25 countries for their leaders. Penn is the author of Microtrends: the Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (2009).

The firm is not currently accepting new investors.

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