MDC TAKES STAKE IN ANOTHER U.S. AGENCY

Toronto Holding company Acquires 68% of VitroRobertson

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- MDC Partners, the Toronto-based agency holding company that has been acquiring stakes in U.S. creative shops, today said it has taken a 68% interest in San Diego agency VitroRobertson.

Claims billings of $60 million
The 12-year-old shop reports billings of

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60% Stake Valued at $75 Million
$60 million, for clients that include Baskin Robbins, sneaker maker Asics, Taylor Guitars, Kyocera Wireless, Cobra Golf, Newcastle Brown Ale and Yamaha WaterCraft.

As a result of the acquisition, John Vitro, partner and co-creative director will become co-creative director and CEO. The agency's other partner, John Robertson, remains co-creative director while adding the title chief operating officer. "There are no changes planned in the agency ... that's why we kept talking with them," Mr. Robertson said.

Mr. Vitro declined comment on the financial aspects of the deal.

Seventh acquisition
The acquisition is the seventh since January for MDC Partners; the company recently bought stakes in two New York agencies, Cliff Freeman & Partnes and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, and Web design and interactive marketing shop Hello Design. MDC said it plans to spend $100 million buying a wide selection of European, Canadian and U.S. shops with disciplines ranging from traditional advertising, such as VitroRobertson, to interactive, product placement and even customer research management.

In the U.S., MDC already had a 49% stake in Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, and majority ownership of Margeotes Fertitta Partners, New York.

Corporate strategy
Chuck Porter, chief strategist of MDC Partners, said the acquisition fits into the corporate strategy of building a "communications network that performs better than the category."

Mr. Porter declined to discuss the financials of the deal. Generally, MDC tries to keep its ownership to about 50%. "I never want to own 100% of anything, or 75% of anything. A significant percentage of ownership has to stay with the people building the business," he said.

Regarding VitroRobertson, Mr. Porter said, "My hunch is that MDC is extremely flexible and [the 68% ownership stake] was based on something VitroRobertson wanted."

More shopping to do
Mr. Porter said he has more agency shopping to do this year, but that he is not looking at larger independents such as Grey Global Group (which is on the shopping block), nor has he talked with Wieden & Kennedy, a perennially hot creative agency with offices in Portland, Ore., New York and Amsterdam.

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