Hill Holliday agrees to sell to Interpublic

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Interpublic Group of Cos. said it signed a definitive agreement to acquire Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. Billings for Boston-based Hill, Holliday are approximately $600 million.

Terms were not disclosed, but by comparison, Interpublic agreed last month to buy Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch, with over $200 million in billings, for $30 million in stock. CEO Jack Connors--Hill Holliday's sole shareholder--will become an Interpublic shareholder, and several agency executives who hold interests in the agency will also share in the proceeds.

The possibility of a Hill Holliday sale to Interpublic first surfaced last month, but was repeatedly denied by executives at the agency. Mr. Connors said after his latest denials two weeks ago, Interpublic countered with a compelling offer that protected Hill Holliday's independence--a deal breaker in his terms. "They finally got to us," said Mr. Connors.

Hill Holliday--one of the largest and healthiest independent agencies--had been approached by a number of suitors recently, including France's Havas Advertising and Publicis S.A.

Hill Holliday will continue operating independently under Mr. Connors, reporting directly to Interpublic Chairman-CEO Philip H. Geier Jr., and with access to overseas distribution through Interpublic unit Ammirati Puris Lintas. Staff reductions or consolidations are not anticipated.

Hill Holliday gives Interpublic a major presence in New England and also another New York agency, Hill, Holliday/Altschiller.

The acquisition is the second-largest agency deal this year to date, after Omnicom Group's agreement to buy GGT Group, London, for $235 million in cash and assumption of debts. GGT reported 1996 billings of $3.15 billion in 1996 in the last Advertising Age ranking of worldwide ad organizations. Omnicom is expected to complete its acquisition of GGT--including U.S. agencies Wells BDDP, New York; GSD&M, Austin, Texas, and Martin/Williams, Minneapolis--in March.

Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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