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Snyder Communications has been in serious talks to acquire Cliff Freeman & Partners, but those negotiations now appear to have cooled.

Speculation is rampant that Freeman parent Saatchi & Saatchi wants to sell the New York agency, known for producing wacky advertising. The shop had a busy week-denying buyout rumors while losing its blue-chip Ameritech wireless account and winning

According to people close to the acquisition discussions with Snyder, the possible deal soured several weeks ago.

The agency lost several key clients during the past two years, including Little Caesars Pizza; the Pep Boys-Manny, Mo & Jack; and Allied Domecq Spirits USA's Sauza tequila. That precipitated industry buzz that Saatchi wanted to sell the $300 million shop.

"They're not contributing significantly to the bottom line," said one executive.

A Saatchi spokesman denied that, saying: "Cliff Freeman is not for sale and Saatchi & Saatchi supports [the agency] 110%."

He did acknowledge that the parent often is approached by other agencies, although he declined to name them.

When asked about the possible buy by Snyder, Mr. Freeman said, "It's not happening."

He wouldn't say if the agency had had talks with Snyder or any other agency or holding company.

About two weeks ago, Snyder Chief Financial Officer Clay Perfall confirmed that the holding company is looking for a New York agency. But he denied it was buying Freeman.


This isn't the first time Cliff Freeman and Saatchi & Saatchi have come close to parting ways. In 1995, Mr. Freeman and other top executives apparently sought to buy the agency back from Saatchi because they wanted more freedom. That effort was rebuffed.

Last year, Saatchi did give the reins some of what it sought. Instead of reporting through the Saatchi ad agency, Freeman now answers directly to the parent.

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