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Publicis Groupe Acquires Remaining Stake in BBH, Becomes Whole Owner of London-Based Shop

Also Acquires Brazil's NEOGAMA/BBH

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Publicis Groupe has acquired the remaining 51% stake in Bartle Bogle Hegarty from founders Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty to become whole owners of the London-based agency.

In a separate transaction, Publicis has acquired NEOGAMA/BBH in full, taking BBH's 34% stake in the Brazilian agency and 66% from its founder Alexandre Gama and partners.

BHH had $164 million in global revenue to close the year, according to Ad Age DataCenter. Since 1982, the agency has added offices in New York, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Shanghai, Mumbai and Los Angeles and headcount of 1,000.

Watching his peers at other agencies sell out to global networks for high prices, Mr. Gama has been eager to sell his remaining stake, whether to Publicis or one of the other potential bidders. Sao Paulo-based NEOGAMA/BBH had approximately $52.8 million (42.2 million euros) in revenue last year and staff of 270, according to Publicis Groupe . NEOGAMA/BBH's digital and retail agencies Triacom and Made in Moon respectively are now also part of the French holding company.

The acquisition also marks the end of an era for BBH. After 30 years, Messrs. Bogle and Hegarty are appointing new management, though will be involved in some client business. NEOGAMA's Mr. Gama will succeed Mr. Hegarty as worldwide chief creative officer and Simon Sherwood, previously group CEO, will take over as group chairman. Gwyn Jones is the new group CEO and Neil Munn, CEO of BBH venture unit Zag, will add on group chief operating duties.

"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," said Publicis Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy in a statement.

"The new ownership not only ensures our autonomy, but brings us considerable advantages through Publicis Groupe 's resources and global infrastructure," Mr. Bogle added.

It's unclear what this means for BBH's Unilever relationship and how that jibes with Publicis Groupe 's broader relationship with P&G. When Publicis bought a 49% stake in BBH, there was a potential conflict between Procter & Gamble at Publicis networks Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett, and BBH's major international client Unilever, but Publicis's minority stake made handling both marketers less of an isssue.

Publicis has held 49% of BBH since 2002, when it acquired Bcom3 for nearly $3 billion to bring Chicago-based Leo Burnett into the family and create the No. 4 agency holding company in the world. Publicis Groupe is now the No. 3 holding company with $8.09 billion in worldwide revenue in 2011, according to Ad Age DataCenter.

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