French Agency Splits From Publicis After Omnicom Merger Fails

Founders Had Hoped Deal Would Bring More International Opportunities

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Publicis Group CEO Maurice Levy has sold his company's stake in Royalties back to the agency's founders.
Publicis Group CEO Maurice Levy has sold his company's stake in Royalties back to the agency's founders.

French strategic branding consultancy Royalties has bought back the 60% share in the agency owned by Publicis Groupe, saying the three founders were disappointed at the failure of their parent company's merger with Omnicom Group.

Terms were not disclosed.

Royalties was set up in 2008 with Publicis Groupe backing after David Jobin, Olivier Bontemps and Alexandre de Coupigny left Omnicom-owned Interbrand.

The plan had been to build Royalties into an international operation, but six years on, it is still a Paris-based agency. The proposed merger with Omnicom seemed like it might provide opportunities to work on a more global scale, Mr. Jobin said, even if the Royalties founders were also frustrated by plans to merge the agency into Omnicom's Interbrand. But when the larger merger collapsed entirely, Royalties decided to split from Publicis and Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy, he said.

"We wanted to stand alone under the Lion [i.e. Publicis Groupe] branding," Mr. Jobin said. "Maurice Levy is a great guy, but our cultures did not match. We wanted to be big and we chose Publicis because we thought it was possible to create a multicultural alternative to the formidable U.K. and U.S. branding giants."

A Publicis spokeswoman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Royalties is planning to start making international acquisitions, looking to buy companies that share the same culture and vision in Brazil, India and China, according to Mr. Jobin, who said there was still money for expansion, even after buying back the stake from Publicis Groupe.

"Maurice understood that we are entrepreneurs -- he agreed to sell and wished us good luck. "Mr. Jobin added. "We were a satellite of Publicis Groupe – we were in the basement or the garden when you need to be in the living room or the bedroom."

Royalties has a staff of 20. Its clients include Deutsche Telekom, Orange (which it shares with Publicis Groupe), Société Générale, Alcatel-Lucent, the Bouygues Groupe and Pages Jaunes.

Mr. Jobin said that all Royalties' clients will be staying with the agency after the buy-back. "We have loyal clients, it's beautiful," he said.

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