FCB's future in Australasia in doubt

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SYDNEY -- The acquisition by French communications group Publicis of a 60% controlling interest in Mojo Partners, owned by True North Communications, places in doubt the future of Foote Cone & Belding agencies in Australia and New Zealand.

FCB has been floundering in the Australasian market and had been hoping for a boost from Mojo, rejuvenated after picking up about $50m in billings from Australia's major telecommunications group Telstra earlier this year.

Mojo Australasia Chairman Graeme Wills has confirmed that Mojo Partners in both Australia and New Zealand has sold 60% of the agency, with local partners retaining the remaining equity, but would not discuss the price.

Wills said Mojo had been given the choice of being owned by either True North, which owns FCB, or Publicis. The agency chose Publicis because "it was a better fit and cultural exchange" and Mojo would benefit from its international alignments, particularly in Europe. "In lots of ways, it's a shame for FCB," he said.

Mojo's Australian and New Zealand holding company, True North Services, he said, would change its name to Publicis Communication, with Wills and Mojo Director Ric Otton as directors.

Publicis will also own associated companies True North Media, which will change its name to Optimedia, Cato Design, Service Partners and a new direct marketing operation, Echo.

Mojo co-founder, Alan (Mo) Morris, who left the agency after it was bought from Chiat/Day by FCB in 1992 and is now a creative partner with John Singleton Advertising, said he was surprised: "I never thought Mojo would sell to the French..."

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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