R.R. Donnelley puts Mobium on the block

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Chicago--Printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. has quietly placed its Mobium marketing communications subsidiary on the block, according to industry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At least two Midwest marketing firms have entered into negotiations with Donnelley regarding Mobium in the past six months, but both eventually decided against acquiring the agency, sources said.

Both Mobium partner Gordon Hochhalter and a spokeswoman for Donnelley declined to comment for this story.

Mobium, whose top clients include NEC and MeadWestvaco, is a much-decorated agency with a reputation for strong creative work. After winning 13 Pro-Comm awards in 2003, Mobium was named the Business Marketing Association’s agency of the year.

Donnelley’s willingness to part with Mobium comes at a time when several agencies have moved to Chicago or have announced plans to do so. Interactive Avenue A announced the opening of a Chicago office in January. Kansas City, Mo.-based NKH&W has entered negotiations with several area firms but has not yet pulled the trigger on an acquisition. NKH&W recently opened an office in Minneapolis headed by former Colle + McVoy chief Jim Bergeson.

Additionally, HSR Business-to-Business, a Cincinnati-based marketing communications agency, said late last year that it planned to open an office in Chicago. When asked if he was in talks to acquire Mobium, Rick Segal, CEO of HSR B-to-B, replied, “No comment.”

Although Mobium has excelled on the creative side, sources said the agency has struggled with the financial end of the business. It has posted losses recently, which might make it difficult for Donnelley to get a price commensurate with the firm’s strong brand name. Industry observers said that Donnelley has likely stepped up efforts to shed Mobium, because of its pending merger with Wallace Moore and an intention to focus on its core printing businesses.

--Sean Callahan

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