TRUE NORTH AND BOZELL SEEN NEARING A DEAL;BOTH COMPANIES PURSUE OTHER, SMALLER ACQUISITIONS

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True North Communications and Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt are moving closer to a deal, said executives close to both.

All the while, each is pursuing other acquisitions and alliances.

The privately held Bozell has built a strong portfolio of clients and creative and is said to be demanding a high price. Price has been True North's stumbling block with Bozell for more than two years now.

A True North spokesman said "there is nothing to report" on Bozell.

But the two sides may be moving closer because of recent account shifts underscoring True North's need for a second network (see related story, Page 32). FCB lost a chance at a huge chunk of business from Bayer AG in December because of a conflict with S.C. Johnson & Son. In January, when it won the worldwide ad account of S.C. Johnson, it threw $70 million in Clorox Co. billings into question.

BARTLE BOGLE BUY?

Meanwhile, executives close to True North said the Chicago-based holding company has approached Bartle Bogle Hegarty, one of London's most-respected agencies and a fellow Levi Strauss & Co. shop, about an acquisition or equity position. BBH executives said their agency isn't for sale; True North denied talks.

"We are not talking to [True North]," said John Bartle, joint chief executive. "Our only conversations are when we go to San Francisco and talk about Levi's."

BBH handles Levi's in Europe and recently won the account in Japan. The San Francisco office of True North's Foote, Cone & Belding handles the U.S. account.

"I wouldn't say BBH will never open more offices or never sell a slice of the agency, but we are completely committed to building an international, standalone brand," Mr. Bartle said.

Bozell isn't standing still. An interactive division of its Poppe Tyson agency, DoubleClick, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Internet Advertising Network, Atlanta (see story, Page 30). That deal advances Bozell's own strategy of growing through acquisitions and also puts more luster on Poppe Tyson, one of the hottest new-media agencies.

BDDP NOT FOR SALE

Across the Atlantic, other agency news swirls.

Jean-Claude Boulet, president of Paris-based BDDP Group, denied a report his agency had entered merger negotiations with Grey Advertising, New York.

"Unless someone has taken over control of the agency and started negotiating without anyone here knowing about it, the report is totally false," Mr. Boulet said.

Euro RSCG, Europe's largest group, last week announced the creation of a second European network and the restructuring of its holding organization.

The Euro RSCG holding company will be renamed Havas, after its main shareholder, with Euro RSCG's Mediopolis media-buying arm and below-the-line operations retained as separate entities.

Former Euro RSCG President Alain de Pouzilhac will be president of Havas. The Euro RSCG agency network keeps its name.

The second network, Campus, will consist of Germany's Rempen & Partners, WCRS in the U.K., Spain's Ruiz Nicoli, Italy's Ata Tonic and France's Australie.

Laurel Wentz and Bruce Crumley contributed to this story.

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