CKS Group's IPO success spawns an imitation

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The phenomenal success of CKS Group's recent initial public offering has spawned at least one new proposed offering.

Eagle River Interactive, a tiny Avon, Colo., agency similar to CKS, filed a registration statement with the Securities & Exchange Commission Jan. 29.

Cupertino, Calif.-based CKS, with $200 million in billings, raised $40 million in a December IPO; its stock has since gone from $20 a share to $34, making the company worth more than $400 million on paper. Chicago-based True North Communications, with more than 10 times CKS' revenue, is worth about the same.

IPO SEEKING $36.6 MIL

Formed two years ago, Eagle River had revenue of $5.3 million in 1995, about a sixth of CKS' revenue. It has yet to post a profit, but is seeking to raise almost as much as CKS--about $36.6 million.

Both companies derive some 30% of their revenue from interactive work and expect that number to grow to 50% this year. Most of Eagle River's revenue comes from its outdoor media operation. CKS also works on package design, corporate identity and advertising, mostly on a project basis.

INTERACTIVE MARKETING SOLUTIONS

Eagle River's prospectus says it "seeks to become the leading worldwide developer of interactive marketing solutions for Fortune 1,000 companies," working on Web sites, kiosks, CD-ROMs and proprietary online offerings.

Eagle River clients include American Express Co., Sun Microsystems and Sprint.

Terence Graunke, chairman, president and CEO, joined Eagle River in 1994. By going public, he hopes to tap into the excitement generated on Wall Street by high-tech companies like Netscape Communications and CKS. The latter's stock is trading at a 510-to-1 price-earnings ratio.

CKS plans to use some of its IPO winnings to grow through acquisitions. Carlton Baab, chief operating and financial officer, said CKS is interested in traditional marketing-communications agencies and high-tech companies that could help on the back end of interactive-marketing programs.

In the former category, CKS' objectives are geographic expansion, access to client lists and complementary strengths. Mr. Baab specifically identified four markets that CKS has interest in: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas and Chicago.

"We're very strong in new media, and we could come in and bring a lot of ideas to a strong client list," he added.

Though lauded for its interactive work for clients such as Apple Computer and MCI Telecommunications, CKS gets criticized in the ad industry for a lack of traditional advertising skills such as brand-building and consumer understanding. It has not sustained long-term relationships with clients on the advertising side; it has never won an AOR pitch on the ad side, garnering mostly project assignments.

CKS is currently pitching the $20 million Fujitsu personal-computer account.

Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this story.

Copyright February 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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