Omnicom Stalks More Acquisitions: Holding Company Vaults To Top Spot With $235 Million GGT Deal

By Published on .

Fresh from snaring GGT Group, Omnicom Group is considering additional acquisitions, with President-CEO John Wren hunting for "two pieces" to add to his holding company.

Though the GGT deal was criticized by some as more opportunistic than strategic, Mr. Wren said, "I know where to go." He wouldn't disclose his strategy, but said he has "almost all the pieces to make [Omnicom's U.S. agencies] flow" as marketers of integrated communications as well as its overseas agencies do.

Omnicom's acquisition of GGT Group, London, for an estimated $235 million in cash, is expected to be completed in two months. European offices of Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide and TBWA International are expected to be beneficiaries of that deal.

MEDIA NEXT?

Insiders said there will be another media company acquisition or reorganization; Mr. Wren would not comment, although he noted that "our media strategy is evolving quite quickly."

Mr. Wren said Omnicom will make a major announcement at the end of February.

Omnicom's opportunity to buy GGT arose in mid-January when Procter & Gamble Co.-a conflict with many Omnicom units' clients-fired GGT's Wells BDDP, New York. The loss of the $125 million P&G account prompted GGT's stock to drop 40% in a single day, leaving GGT ripe for takeover.

OMNICOM MOVED FAST

Omnicom and WPP Group, London, were both suitors, but Omnicom moved fast, offering $3.28 for each GGT share.

GGT Chairman-CEO Michael Greenlees and BDDP Chairman Jean-Marie Dru have agreed to sign five-year contracts with Omnicom, said Mr. Wren in an internal memo, though their "positions cannot be defined precisely until the other issues have been resolved."

BDDP Worldwide President-CEO Jean-Claude Boulet retired Jan. 30.

Mr. Wren would not discuss his plans for GGT's holdings, in part because he doesn't expect to have the final strategic alignment in place until later this year. However, his memo indicated that he does not want to be premature.

"Since the key executives of GGT/BDDP and its operating units have enthusiastically supported our bid," he wrote, "we do not expect a challenge by a hostile bidder. . . . [but] we cannot dismiss the possibility."

NO 4TH NETWORK

In an internal memo Mr. Wren said he'll take the balance of 1998 to determine what and how GGT/BDDP should be integrated into its system, adding that Omnicom "will not have a fourth network" outside of its main TBWA, BBDO and DDB Needham Worldwide operations.

GGT's holdings include U.S. properties GSD&M, Austin, Texas; Martin/Williams, Minneapolis; and Wells. Outside the U.S., GGT units include GGT Advertising in Europe and BDDP Worldwide offices in Europe, North America and the Far East.

Industry observers believe that, unlike GSD&M, Wells is likely to be folded into another Omnicom shop, such as BBDO. Executives close to Wells say other holding companies, such as Publicis, have indicated interest in buying Wells.

Wells is a questionable agency with "a tarnished name," said an investment banker familiar with the agency.

JUST TWO MONTHS

Industry observers say the next two months will be telling for Wells under the leadership of newly tapped CEO Steve Davis, who replaced Frank Assuma on the same day Omnicom announced the GGT deal.

Mr. Davis said his first priority will be to restructure the New York office and that he will announce several changes by the end of this week, which will include "adjustments to staff."

He would not discuss layoffs, widely estimated at more than 100.

Mr. Davis also ruled out a move from Wells' new office space in New York, saying a move would be "too disruptive and we don't need disruption now."

SHOPPING WELLS' SPACE

However, last week a New York broker was shopping about 80,000 square feet of Wells' space to other companies.

Although some industry observers said Mr. Davis' appointment was a commitment from Omnicom to rebuilding Wells, key accounts such as Heineken USA and Hertz Rent A Car could be problematic. Heineken conflicts with two Omnicom agencies' Anheuser-Busch business, and Hertz is 81% owned by Ford Motor Co., a conflict with BBDO's Chrysler account.

But, there are also shared clients among GGT and Omnicom agencies, including Hasbro, McDonald's Corp., Michelin Tire and SBC Communications.

Although Omnicom officials wouldn't comment directly on the individual conflicts, Omnicom Chief Financial Officer Fred Meyer said: "We obviously are aware [of the conflicts]. We assumed in the rough total of $300 million revenue that $5 million to $10 million [of that] might be a conflict."M

Contributing: Pat Sloan, James B. Arndorfer, Alice Z. Cuneo, Jean Halliday, Laurel Wentz, Juliana Koranteng, Chuck Ross.

In this article:
Most Popular