Charles Saatchi Severs Ties to His Ad Agency

Sells 7% Stake in M&C Saatchi, Though Brother Maurice Remains Active

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NEW YORK ( -- Charles Saatchi has severed his last ties to the London-based M&C Saatchi agency he and his brother Maurice started in 1995 after an ignominious ouster from the Saatchi & Saatchi company they founded in 1980.
$7 million buyout
Charles Saatchi, 63, who fetched more than $7 million for his 7% stake, hadn't been involved in the agency for a long time, and resigned from the board of directors back in 2004. The timing of the sale was a combination of his desire to sell, the legal requirements for when an owner can divest his shares in a public company and interest in having more liquidity in the agency's stock, according to an executive familiar with the matter. One M&C Saatchi executive said he hadn't spotted Mr. Saatchi in the agency for the last year or two.

The brothers and three other partners from the original Saatchi & Saatchi agency each held a 7% share in M&C Saatchi, and other staff have about a 6% stake combined. The remainder of the company was floated on the AIM stock market in London in 2004, and helped fund the agency's international expansion. After the management holding, the biggest shareholders are institutional investors Fidelity, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers.

'One-word equity'
The M&C executive said Mr. Saatchi's departure as a shareholder doesn't signal a similar exit for his brother Maurice, better known as Lord Saatchi. In fact, Maurice Saatchi is believed to be more involved in the agency now that he is no longer chairman of the Conservative Party. He has been actively promoting M&C Saatchi's "One-word equity," a belief that the strongest brands are built on global ownership of one word. Maurice Saatchi gave a presentation at the Cannes Lions festival in June 2006 and wrote a column for the Financial Times about one-word equity and, as an attention-grabber, the death of advertising. (The agency has created a website).

Long distanced from the ad world, Charles Saatchi's own one-word equity continues to be "art." He has been building his modern-art collection for more than 30 years and his Saatchi Gallery in London moves to new, bigger quarters next year. So reticent that he rarely attends the openings of even his own art exhibitions, Mr. Saatchi has given only one lengthy on-the-record interview in decades: He answered the questions of readers of a publication called "The Art Newspaper" about his collection and opinions on the art world (the interview is posted on the Saatchi Gallery's website).

An exhibition of Mr. Saatchi's modern American art called "USA Today" opens Oct. 6 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Married life
Some glimpses of Charles Saatchi emerge from his more-public third wife, Nigella Lawson. Ms. Lawson, a well-known U.K. personality for her TV cooking programs, cookbooks and kitchenware collection, married him in 2003. In an interview several years ago with the custom magazine of U.K. supermarket chain Waitrose, she mused on whether she and Charles would marry, and confided, "He loves it when I do cook, but he's really not very interested. I think he would very often rather have a bowl of cereal."
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