Burnett, MacManus poised to unveil major alliance

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Leo Group, Chicago, and MacManus Group, New York, are expected to announce tomorrow an alliance that will most likely include a merger of the two agency groups. Executives at both agencies couldn't be reached for comment at deadline.

The two holding companies share common clients, including Procter & Gamble Co. and General Motors Corp. MacManus and Leo Burnett Co. held talks last year regarding a global alliance among their media-buying arms, TeleVest (now MediaVest) and Starcom Worldwide, respectively, but the deal was called off several months later.

The two companies are privately owned. MacManus's larger holdings include D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and N.W. Ayer & Partners, while Leo Group holds Leo Burnett Co., Starcom, Vigilante and a 49% stake in Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London.

Agency brand names such as D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Leo Burnett are expected to remain separate entities after the merger.

The combination would create the fourth-largest ad organization in the world based on 1998 gross income of $1.8 billion, just ahead of Dentsu and behind WPP Group.

Dentsu also has been in discussions to acquire a stake in Leo Group.

Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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