Publicis takes stake in Burrell

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Publicis is expanding its U.S. coverage, taking a 49% stake in Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, the country's largest minority-oriented ad agency. Terms were not disclosed; Burrell had $21.8 million in revenue last year.

The deal for Burrell, with $166 million in billings, marks Publicis' third significant U.S. investment in the last year, after Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, and EvansGroup, Seattle. In targeting Burrell, Publicis is making a bid to reach the burgeoning African-American market, expected to remain the country's largest minority group through 2005, after which Hispanics should surpass them, according to U.S. Census data.

"We view it as a fantastic opportunity, as the future of advertising in the United States will be determined in part by its ability to reach the nation's economically powerful and culturally influential minority communities," said Maurice Levy, Publicis chairman-CEO.

The Publicis agreement comes a year after Burrell's talks with Lighthouse Holdings, Chicago, fell apart, reportedly over terms. AdMedia Partners, New York, brokered the Publicis deal.

Burrell will act as an independent agency, and a spokeswoman said it would not change its name. With Publicis holding 49% of Burrell, Chairman-CEO Thomas Burrell will own 43% of the agency, and executives will own the remaining 8%. Clients include Coca-Cola USA, Kellogg Co., McDonald's Corp. and Mobil Corp. It was founded in 1971 by Mr. Burrell, has 133 employees in Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

Publicis is the world's 10th-largest communications company with $930 million in revenues, a 29% jump over '97. Billings in 1998 were $6 billion, compared with $4.4 billion one year earlier. Its clients include Coca-Cola Co., Hewlett-Packard Co., Nestle and Renault. It employs 8,000 people, and has operations in 72 countries.

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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