The financially troubled holding company has held the minority interest in Southfield, Mich.-based GlobalHue since its 2001 acquisition of True North Communications, which initially purchased the stake in what was then Don Coleman Advertising. GlobalHue, with annual billings of $350 million, was formed with the consolidation of Hispanic specialist Montemayor y Asociados, San Antonio; Siboney USA, Miami; and Imada Wong Communications Group, Los Angeles. (Imada Wong has since left the group; Asian shop Innovasia Communications, Los Angeles, has been part of GlobalHue since August).
GlobalHue is the No. 1 African-American agency in the U.S. and the second-largest Hispanic shop. Terms of the proposed buyback were not known at press time.
GlobalHue Chairman Don Coleman didn't return calls for comment. Interpublic declined to comment.
An executive close to the situation said the discussions were initiated by GlobalHue, and an insider confirmed talks had been held. The move comes a week after news that Interpublic retained Goldman Sachs to sell off research powerhouse NFO WorldGroup (AA, Dec. 30, P. 1).
The executive said GlobalHue has sought, and received, the blessing of key clients it shares with Interpublic, such as American Airlines and Verizon Wireless. But Rob Britton, managing director-advertising and marketing programs at American, contacted via e-mail last week, said he was "clueless in this matter. I'm on vacation this week."
Verizon executives could not be reached for comment at press time.
GlobalHue handles Chrysler Group's account, while several Interpublic agencies handle major General Motors Corp. business. After GlobalHue acquired Innovasia last summer, Innovasia resigned GM's Asian account for Chrysler, which GlobalHue had just retained.
A Chrysler spokesman said he was unaware of GlobalHue's buyback plans, but said, "It's not a concern around here who owns GlobalHue." Chrysler also isn't concerned about the Interpublic/GM ties.
GlobalHue may not be flying solo long. The executive familiar with the situation said the agency is talking to other agency holding companies and entertainment-marketing specialists. A likely prospect would be Omnicom Group, since the Troy, Mich., office of its BBDO Worldwide handles Chrysler's Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler brand accounts. Omnicom did not return calls at press time.
contributing: laurel wentz