Acquisitions: Grey does a 360

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Grey Global Group, with its win of the $150 million BellSouth account in December, has moved to create a major presence in the Southeast. Last week, it completed its widely anticipated purchase of 360, the six-year-old firm that partnered with Grey Worldwide, New York, last year to win BellSouth. Purchase price of the $60 million Atlanta boutique was not disclosed.

In addition to acquiring 360, Grey Global Group established a regional holding company, Grey Global, Atlanta, and opened an office of Grey Worldwide. Grey's public relations unit, GCI, in the city since 1994, will merge with 360. Grey's Atlanta companies will employ approximately 200 people when fully operational. "Now, we are entering this region with a full offering of top talent and key marketing services," said Ed Meyer, chairman, president-CEO, Grey Global Group.

How Grey Global is managing its entrance into a new market is noteworthy. "This was a merger that grew up inside the market," Mr. Meyer said. "The people who are involved came together locally."

Agency executives who've moved into Atlanta agree that "there's some value to associating yourself with people who are known," said Graham Phillips, former chairman, WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York.

The principals of 360, Joel Babbit and Mark Goldman, knew Ken Willis, CEO of GCI Atlanta, socially. When BellSouth's account went into play, Mr. Willis put Steve Blamer, president of Grey Worldwide, New York, in touch with 360. "We needed [Messrs. Babbit and Goldman] to establish a base of operations and they could benefit from being part of a company with national and international capabilities," Mr. Blamer said.

Just what the future holds for Grey Global Group is a question oft asked in an industry where consolidation has left few targets to absorb, but Mr. Meyer, 75, dismisses any talk of a Grey sale, and said definitively, "We are not going to be sold. We wish to acquire individual companies where we need them."

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