LEAP PUTS IPO ON AGENDA AS IT SEEKS CAPITAL GROWTH;AGENCY HAS TALKED TO INTERPUBLIC ABOUT AFFILIATION

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Leap Partnership, an enigmatic 2 1/2-year-old Chicago agency that last year resigned its biggest client, is considering an initial public offering.

Leap has considered various options for capital growth, but its recent focus has been on an IPO, according to two executives familiar with the plan. Leap has been working with Dean Witter Reynolds, New York, one of the advisers on Cupertino, Calif.-based CKS Group's successful IPO.

Leap principals George Gier, Joe Sciarrotta, Fred Smith, Rick Lutterbach and Tom Sharbaugh did not return calls at press time.

HAVE TALKED TO IPG

Earlier this year, Leap talked with at least two agency holding companies, including Interpublic Group of Cos., about an affiliation (AA, Jan. 15).

Three of the five principals formed Leap in 1993 after leaving DDB Needham Worldwide's Chicago office, where they had worked on Bud Light's "Yes I am" campaign. They said then they hoped to build an agency with $100 million in billings and 100 employees.

The agency has created ads for Miller Brewing Co., Nike and Tommy Armour Golf but has generally been secretive about billings and other clients.

Leap shocked observers late last year when it resigned its biggest client, Miller Brewing Co., for which it had handled the $30 million Lite Ice brand. The ex-DDB principals still have ties to Anheuser-Busch executives, fueling speculation Leap might be gunning for an A-B assignment.

The agency positions itself as an alternative to bigger shops that parcel out a client's marketing needs to different departments.

In April, Leap agreed to acquire Tanagram, a Chicago graphic design agency that has worked on Leap projects.

INTERACTIVE ANGLE

Leap also has positioned itself as a shop with interactive capabilities, which it would almost certainly focus on in marketing its stock to investors. Two successful IPOs in the past six months by interactive agencies-CKS Group and Eagle River Interactive, Avon, Colo.-have heated up agencies' interest in the stock market. At least four other shops with interactive expertise are considering IPOs.

Contributing: Todd Pruzan

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