Bozell (Bozell & Jacobs)

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Founded as Bozell & Jacobs in Omaha by Leo Bozell and Morris Jacobs, 1921; bought Emerson Foote Inc. and moved headquarters to New York, 1967; acquired by Lorimar Pictures, 1985; merged with Kenyon & Eckhardt to become Bozell Jacobs Kenyon & Eckardt, 1986; bought itself back from Lorimar, 1988; reorganized with BJK&E as the holding company, Bozell Worldwide, the agency, 1992; acquired by True North Communications, 1997; True North acquired by Interpublic Group of Cos. and Bozell's network dissolved by the new holding company, with the agency reduced to a single New York office, 2001; the New York office merged with sibling shop Lowe New York and the Bozell name disappeared, 2003.

Bozell & Jacobs began in 1921 as an extracurricular activity of Morris Jacobs, a night police reporter for the Bee-News in Omaha, and Leo Bozell, a former editor of the Omaha Daily News then working for the local real estate board. The two men met earlier at the Daily News when Mr. Jacobs covered local business and Mr. Bozell was his editor. Their work attracted Nebraska Power Co., whose account enabled Messrs. Bozell and Jacobs to form a full-time agency in 1923. The account, however, typecast the new enterprise as a regional utilities shop.


Five years later, the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway account enabled Bozell to open an office in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A third office opened in 1934 in Chicago, under Morris's brother, Nate Jacobs and, by 1939, the agency also had offices in Houston and Indianapolis. In 1937, billings stood at less than $5 million, a level at which the agency remained for eight years despite adding number of offices in different cities.

Amid the long list of utilities, a few consumer brands appeared by 1942, including Roper Ranges and Amling Co., a florist chain. But overwhelmingly the pattern of Bozell over its first four decades would be slow growth within its utility and banking niche. However, it gained a national spotlight through its pro bono work for Boys Town, the Nebraska orphanage started by Father Edward Flanagan.

Between 1951 and 1956, billings rose from $9.3 million to $20 million, but the agency depended on a huge base of clients, each with only modest individual spending. By 1960, Bozell had more than 350 clients but billings remained static at $20 million. (By comparison, its future partner, Kenyon & Eckhardt, had billings of $90 million on a base of about 25 clients.)

In 1965, Chuck Peebler's first year as president of Bozell, billings rose 15%, to $23 million. Mr. Peebler expanded the agency's profile outside Omaha and bought Emerson Foote Inc. for $500 in August 1967, giving Bozell an increased New York presence and added billings of about $7 million.

Foote's offices became not only Bozell's eastern flagship but also the new corporate headquarters. Ties to Omaha were cut, and the agency reached the $50 million mark on its 50th anniversary. Three months after the Foote acquisition, Morris Jacobs retired and sold controlling interest to Mr. Peebler, who became CEO, and Alan Jacobs, a nephew.

Though the account roster still lacked sparkle, Mr. Peebler pressed on with a strategy of agency acquisition that was generating momentum. The plan received a big boost in 1974 when Bozell acquired Dallas-based Glenn Advertising, a $29 million shop that included pieces of the American Airlines and Quaker Oats accounts.

The 1975 purchase of Knox Reeves, Minneapolis, brought Bozell its first General Mills business along with its future chairman, David Bell, who would assume the CEO title at Bozell Worldwide in 1996. Bozell became a $100 million company, and by 1979 it had nearly tripled its billings to $287 million.

In 1985, Mr. Peebler, who had been looking for a suitor with international links and a proper dowry, found cash-rich Lorimar Pictures, which had purchased the $412 million Kenyon & Eckhardt agency as a means of diversification. After acquiring Bozell for $41 million, Lorimar combined the two shops; at the time, Bozell was billing $808 million. Six months later, the merged agency was renamed BJK&E in January 1986. With combined billings of more than $1 billion, BJK&E became the No. 14 U.S. agency. Mr. Peebler became CEO.

While the merger of the two agencies worked well, the combination with Lorimar, which had little expertise with or interest in active management in the agency business, did not. Lorimar, which had continued its diversification effort, started to see losses. When BJK&E began negotiations to buy itself back on Feb. 19, 1988, the holding company—glad to receive a cash windfall of $133 million—did not fight.

Growth and acquisition

In 1992, BJK&E reorganized again; all agency functions were consolidated under the nameplate Bozell Worldwide, while BJK&E assumed the role of holding company for present and future agencies. Growth continued into 1994, when Chrysler awarded all its North American Jeep/Eagle business to Bozell and the agency acquired the Detroit office of Campbell-Mithun-Esty. That year also proved good for high-visibility creative work, as Bozell launched the "Milk Mustache" campaign for the National Fluid Milk Processor Board.

In the fourth quarter of 1997, BJK&E was acquired in a friendly merger with True North Communications, a holding company that also owned FCB Worldwide. The deal dissolved BJK&E as an entity but retained Bozell Worldwide. In 2000, the agency, then known as Bozell Group, had U.S. gross income of $136.5 million on billings of $1.4 billion.

In June 2001, the Interpublic Group of Cos. acquired True North Communications and Bozell Group for $1.72 billion; Interpublic reduced Bozell Group to a lone office in New York and renamed it Bozell, reassigning its assets. In 2001, Bozell has gross income of $76.8 million on billings of $877.8 million.

In January 2003, Interpublic merged the single Bozell office with sibling Lowe New York. The Bozell name disappeared.

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