Canadian shops eye West Coast purchases

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Despite the unsettled economy and ad market, outsiders-mainly from Canada-are looking to buy West Coast shops. And one new agency is opening in San Francisco even amid talk of too many agencies and too little business.

A handful of Canadian companies are scouring the West in search of independents.

Beverley Morden, president, MDC Corp.'s Toronto-based Maxxcom, with majority ownership in 10 U.S. agencies, said she is interested in both traditional ad agencies and marketing services shops and is in early negotiations with at least one unidentified agency.

Toronto-based Wolf Group, which has six U.S. offices and is looking toward an initial public offering, is in "active discussions" with more than one company on both the East and West coasts, with announcements expected within the next few months, said Chairman Larry Wolf.

As reported, Cossette Communications Group, Quebec City, also is looking on the West and East coasts (AA, April 23).

A deal by Toronto's Envoy Communications Group to acquire Leagas Delaney, a London shop with a San Francisco office, is faltering due to market shifts, though Stephen Miller, Envoy's VP-corporate development, said, "We're still talking and still committed."

At least one other shop is looking to go west. Peter Krivkovich, CEO of Cramer-Krasselt, an independent shop in Chicago and Milwaukee, said his agency is in negotiations to buy a shop in Los Angeles.

And one agency is opening in the heart of oversubscribed San Francisco. Paul Venables, co-creative director and associate partner of Omnicom Group shop Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, last week started Venables, Bell & Partners with Greg Bell, formerly a Goodby Silverstein group creative director. The shop opened with Microsoft Corp.'s estimated $50 million UltimateTV account, moving from True North Communication's FCB Worldwide, San Francisco. Mr. Venables worked with the clients when they were at Pacific Bell; Goodby Silverstein couldn't pitch UltimateTV because it has rival TiVo.

Mr. Venables, who is subletting space from Goodby Silverstein, sees an opportunity in the consolidating, slumping San Francisco ad market, and is eyeing opportunities with accounts facing conflicts at larger shops.

"I'm leaving the best job in advertising," Mr. Venables said. "I'm a little stupid in that way."

Contributing: Kate MacArthur

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