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Sunbeam Corp.'s purchase of Mr. Coffee, First Alert and Coleman Co. should lead to more marketing support for those brands, and possibly more work for Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

But first, Chairman Albert "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap must decide which people, products or agencies are dead wood as he undertakes his trademark slash-and-burn approach to corporate turnarounds.


Sunbeam last week simultaneously announced agreements to buy Signature Brands, parent of Mr. Coffee and Health-o-meter scales; First Alert, the smoke alarm marketer; and Coleman Co., the outdoor products marketer, for a total of $2.5 billion in cash, stock and acquired debt.

The three deals more than double Sunbeam's revenues -- from $1.2 billion in 1997 to $2.7 billion after the acquisition -- and position Mr. Dunlap as the self-described "consolidator" in the mature market of durable basic consumer products.

Analysts expect him to buy more, possibly including the appliance business Black & Decker recently put up for sale.

Mr. Dunlap, who shrunk and then sold Scott Paper Co. to Kimberly-Clark Corp. earlier this decade, rapidly moved to slash jobs, costs and products after taking control of Sunbeam in July 1996.


Within five months of his arrival, he also consolidated Sunbeam advertising at Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, and gave the sleepy brand a $12 million TV campaign.

Sunbeam executives won't discuss their plans for the acquired brands. A spokeswoman said nothing will be decided until Coopers & Lybrand swoops through the companies and prepares an analysis for Sunbeam executives.

"In the end, they will do what's best for the shareholders and customers," she said. "To infer anything [specific] would be very misleading."

First Alert moved its estimated $5 million account to Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, last June. Coleman last September shifted its $5 million account to Tarlow Advertising, New York. Signature in November split with Meldrum & Fewsmith, Cleveland, parceling out work on a project basis to other agencies for its $5 million-plus account.

As for the fate of the agencies working with the acquired companies, the spokeswoman said, "If it is good, creative advertising and so forth, they probably have nothing to worry about."

She added that Sunbeam "absolutely" will step up marketing and advertising of the acquired brands.

O&M executives wouldn't comment, referring calls to Sunbeam. But O&M has some familiarity with the acquired brands: It was a finalist in First Alert's 1997 review and in a 1994 Coleman review.


William Steele, a consumer products analyst with Buckingham Research Group, believes Sunbeam will quickly bring the Mr. Coffee and First Alert lines into the Sunbeam fold.

That would suggest little reason for multiple shops.

Mr. Steele sees the most upside with Coleman, which he predicts Sunbeam will expand into more recreational product categories.

He expects Mr. Dunlap to consolidate marketing at Sunbeam's Delray Beach, Fla., headquarters -- and to push for product innovation.

"If he has the products and they are new and different, he will advertise them," Mr. Steele said. "He's trying to create a pull-through marketing strategy."

Sunbeam ad spending more than doubled to $14 million for the first 11 months of last year.

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