One part Wall Street and one part flea market, the mergers and acquisitions season is in full swing, with virtually every holding company in a race to land creative talent and new clients.
IPG is ready to approve Lowe Group's acquisition of Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, and GGT is near a deal with N.W. Ayer & Partners, New York, pending a nod from Ayer client Procter & Gamble Co.
London's WPP Group is in pursuit of BDDP Group, as reported, and Cordiant is also seeking acquisitions. So are Young & Rubicam and Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt.
The Bozell Worldwide parent is looking both overseas and at the domestic public market. Its Poppe Tyson will offer shares to the public this summer, hoping to match the $250 million to $300 million initial public offering of Cupertino, Calif.-based CKS Group earlier this year.
Y&R is believed to be talking with a small independent U.S. agency after relinquishing its 50% stake in the Los Angeles office of Lord, Dentsu & Partners. Y&R officials denied it will absorb the New York office of Lord Dentsu, in which it remains a 50% partner.
Executives with Cordiant's Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide and Bates Worldwide confirmed that their parent is back in the market for acquisitions. A year ago, burdened by heavy debt, Cordiant was selling stakes in Campbell Mithun Esty and DraftDirect Worldwide.
P&G A HURDLE
Cordiant executives denied they were looking at Ayer. Executives familiar with Ayer's GGT negotiations say one stumbling block to that deal may be P&G.
P&G watchers said the package-goods giant would prefer Ayer and other U.S. independents that are on its roster be acquired by other P&G agencies. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, had talked with Ayer about an alliance or merger more than two years ago but denied having further interest.
Asked if a sale was imminent, Ayer Chairman Mary Lou Quinlan said, "Do you think I'd be here if it was?" Ms. Quinlan was reached in Indian Wells, Calif., at the Four A's meeting.
M&C Saatchi, the 1-year-old shop whose founder Maurice Saatchi previously headed what is now Cordiant, is also rumored to be interested but executives close to P&G said it's chances of buying Ayer are "nil."
NO, NOT AGAIN
Executives said P&G management, and Chairman-CEO John Pepper in particular, aren't interested in bringing Maurice Saatchi back onto its roster.
WPP Group hasn't been an active buyer in a while, but CEO Martin Sorrell, having been given a green light by his bankers for an acquisition, is one of those studying Paris-based BDDP.
According to executives close to the deal, BDDP has not yet found any of the bids acceptable. Neither Mr. Sorrell nor BDDP executives returned calls.
Other P&G agency executives point to Grey Advertising, New York, and Euro RSCG, Paris, as likely bidders for BDDP's WRG agency, because they share P&G as a client.
IPG's Lowe Group appeared close to a deal to acquire San Francisco-based Goldberg Moser late last week. While IPG officials declined comment, Goldberg Moser employees viewed a deal as a virtual certainty. Exec VP-Creative Director Mike Moser told Advertising Age: "Talks are now at a neat place."
Executives at Lowe also said they expected a deal would be done this week.
GM ALSO A PROBLEM
That surprised some observers, who said General Motors Corp., a huge IPG client, had forbidden IPG's acquisition of shops with any more car accounts. Lowe Group's Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, handles Mercedes-Benz North America, while Goldberg Moser O'Neill handles Kia Motors America.
But Dick Macedo, executive director-marketing for Kia, said Goldberg Moser had informed him of a possible deal while assuring him it would operate separately from Lowe/SMS.
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Pat Sloan, Scott Donaton, Bradley Johnson, Laurel Wentz, Jean Halliday, Bruce Crumley.