After a decade-long run, the founding partners of boutique digital shop Sarkissian Mason are parting ways, with co-founder Matt Mason leaving for R&R Partners, a full service-independent agency based in Las Vegas.
The breakup, described as amicable, comes after the agency lost a major client last year when Mazda North America moved its digital account and all other ad work to WPP's newly formed Team Mazda. "They decided to roll up with WPP" and it "kind of left us in a tough spot," Mr. Mason said. So "we opted for splitting the company."
Under the terms of the deal, R&R acquired the Mason side of the business for an undisclosed amount, including seven employees and a digital account for Boeing, which Mr. Mason ran while at Sarkissian Mason, both parties said. (Mr. Mason's team had run the Mazda account.)
Mr. Mason, who co-founded the digital shop 11 years ago with Patrick Sarkissian, is taking over as R&R's new VP-digital strategy and development. He will remain in Phoenix, where he had worked as Sarkissian Mason's executive creative director. Mr. Sarkissian, the firm's CEO, is staying in New York, where he will continue to run the agency, which will keep the name Sarkissian Mason, about 30 employees and a client list of about 10, including CNN and Ford, Mr. Sarkissian said.
Mr. Mason is "a great fit for our company and Boeing was his big client, so they came along with [the deal]," said Mary Ann Mele, an R&R partner, noting that her agency was vetted by Boeing.
Mr. Sarkissian said it was a "clean, mutually agreeable decision" between him and Mr. Mason. "We just said long term it was in Matt's interest to be part of a larger entity doing production," adding, "for us, we're much more focused on ideas."
He downplayed the loss of Mazda, saying the car company consolidated its agencies because "they were looking for one throat to choke and we opted for that not to be our throat." He said his agency considered selling to WPP, but opted against it because "we didn't find it to be a favorable direction for us to pursue." WPP declined to comment.
Sarkissian Mason was identified by Ad Age in 2007 as "one of the hottest digital agencies around," making a list of 20 lesser-known but innovative agencies considered possible takeover targets. Sarkissian Mason's work for Mazda helped the company earn the 2008 "Automotive Online Marketer of the Year," by JD Power & Associates.
For R&R Partners, the addition of Mr. Mason and Boeing continues a growth spurt that has included recent acquisitions of two small Southern California agencies, the Ballpark and Kaiser Marketing. The agency has also hired Phil Motta, of Motta & Morris, and David Ellis, of Veo Group, and opened a new office in Los Angeles.
R&R, now with 268 employees in six cities, is best known for the "What happens here stays here" tagline created for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Other specialties include public relations, issues advocacy and government affairs. The agency recently won work from real estate company Re/Max that will include outdoor and digital advertising for 10 regions. The Boeing account is for Newairplane.com, which showcases the manufacturer's fleet.