49% SOLUTION

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It's no surprise major ad agency holding companies have cast their acquisitive eyes on minority shops. And it's to be expected that the people who created and built those agencies want to cash in during these heady times and realize their reward for years of hard work. But there's an extra element involved with these agencies, and Publicis' Maurice Levy and Burrell Communications Group's Tom Burrell have come up with a perfect solution that takes into consideration the perception and reality of minority ownership.

The problem seems to be one belonging to black-owned agencies and black-owned media. Such large Hispanic agencies as Bromley, Aguilar; Mendoza, Dillon; Siboney; and Conill were acquired (by MacManus Group, WPP Group, True North Communications and Saatchi & Saatchi, respectively) years ago. But in the African-American community, said Caroline Jones, president of the agency that bears her name, some people think "if you're not all black, then you're all white." As Mr. Burrell himself put it, "We're still at a point where the symbolism of black ownership has value to [the black] community."

That value cannot be denied. And Messrs. Levy and Burrell came up with the solution -- common on Publicis' European turf -- of the former buying 49% of the latter, with Mr. Burrell and his key executives keeping 51%. In time, this may change; but it could very well be that control eventually shifts to other key African-American executives at the shop and not Publicis. But for now, this

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