London agency VCCP is hunting for its first U.S. acquisition, a creative shop located preferably on the west coast. Financing for the deal will come from VCCP's new private-equity owner, Providence Equity Partners, which today completed its acquisition, announced in July, of VCCP parent Chime Communications.
"We were looking to do an acquisition in the U.S., but [the private-equity deal] is the catalyst," said Adrian Coleman, co-founder and group CEO of VCCP, the U.K.'s sixth biggest agency according to Nielsen data.
VCCP execs, including Mr. Coleman, were in the U.S. recently to meet with three agencies each on the east and west coasts, and have at least one more shop to see.
"More and more of our work is international, but we're excluded from a lot of conversations because we're not in the U.S." he said.
Chime announced today that the deal has been completed for Providence to buy a majority of Chime; WPP retains an existing minority stake. Providence is a private equity investor in media and communications businesses, including sports agencies. Providence is also a partner in the private equity consortium that bought U.S. Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications in 2007 for more than $10 billion. They may soon be exiting that investment; Univision Holdings filed in early July for an initial public offering.
Mr. Coleman said his London shop VCCP represents about 35% of Chime's business. VCCP was founded in 2002 by four refugees from big agencies, Chairman Charles Vallance, Mr. Coleman, and two partners who have since left, Rooney Carruthers and Ian Priest. The VCCP partners sold their agency in 2005 after just three years to Chime, which was mostly a pr and advertising group then. Now Chime is more heavily into sports marketing, including operations in the U.S.
VCCP's founding client, U.K. telecommunications giant 02, is still the agency's biggest, and led to its first international office, in Berlin. Since then, VCCP has opened other offices as client needs arose in Madrid, Prague and Sydney, but the U.S. will be the first acquisition.
Mr. Coleman said he is looking for an independent shop with about 80 to 150 staffers that VCCP can help grow, and hopes to have a deal in place by the beginning of next year. Besides getting on international pitch lists, VCCP has several clients in the U.K. that would be interested in working with the agency in the U.S., and there's potential business from Chime's U.S. sports marketing business, he said.
In the U.K., VCCP clients include Coors, EasyJet, Walmart-owned Asda, global work for BMW Motorcycles, and insurance comparison site comparethemarket.com, for which the agency created the iconic and long-running "Meerkat" campaign.
"We're a challenger brand with challenger clients and we do brave, entrepreneurial, bold work, and we're looking for an agency that can do that," said Mr. Coleman, adding that they have perhaps more of an affinity for west coast agencies. "We're a bit of a refugee camp [from traditional networks]."
Christopher Satterthwaite, CEO of Chime, said in a statement, "Together with Providence, we are committed to growing the business, both organically and through acquisitions but also to expand our global presence, particularly in the U.S., which will be an increasingly core market for us."