Tempus Group Chairman Chris Ingram, recently in the city to visit the newly opened office, admitted he's on the hunt for another company or two to acquire. "We're looking to make more acquisitions on the research side," Mr. Ingram said.
The bantam holding company, partially owned by heavyweight WPP Group, also plans to open a U.S. branch of its U.K. brand building shop, Added Value, this fall. It's all part of a grand scheme by Mr. Ingram to expand in the largest advertising market in the world through the acquisition of marketing services companies.
Added Value will launch in the U.S. by acquiring a domestic company, merging with it and renaming it, he said. Tempus has purchased four businesses here within the last two years: a minority share of Kokopelli New Media, a Web design outfit in New York; MMG, an online media planning and buying company based in Bend, Ore.; Brain Bug, a Web development company in Hartford, Conn.; and Webster Group International, an online publicity company in St. Louis. Tempus folded MMG and Brain Bug into Outrider, an e-commerce and online marketing company based in London.
Tempus built CIA (Chris Ingram Associates) Medianetwork in the U.S. by acquiring and folding into it VSM Media in New York in 1998 and CPM Media in Chicago last year. CIA ranks 19th on Advertising Age's list of top media specialist companies in the U.S. with $507 million in billings, and 14th on the worldwide list with more than $5 billion in business.
Some observers believe CIA needs to shore up its profile in the U.S. by acquiring more companies, lest it becomes acquired itself.
"He's got challenges here," said an executive at a major U.S. media agency regarding Mr. Ingram. "He doesn't have any substantial holdings. He needs a bigger foothold. It's very difficult here, because there aren't many midsize media and buying outfits left."
Mr. Ingram admitted he's shopping for another independent media service among "the usual suspects." An executive close to Tempus indicated that likely prospects include Horizon Media and Media First International.
"CIA wants quality media independents," said the executive, who also pointed out the company abandoned its designs on Janik & Associates in Los Angeles. CIA teamed with Janik on the recent $100 million May Co. pitch, which eventually went to Doner, Southfield, Mich. CIA hoped to purchase Janik in the event of a win.
WPP Group is the largest single holder of ordinary shares of Tempus (13 million compared to 11 million owned by Mr. Ingram), with about a 19% interest in the company. Some observers suggest that Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP CEO, is interested in acquiring a majority position in the company.
The Tempus culture, with its consolidation of research units and brand consultancies, could easily fit into WPP's stable of below-the-line "specialist communications" companies, and CIA's worldwide network could conceivably bulk up MindShare, WPP's media agency, particularly in Asia where CIA has a strong presence.
But, its DCMA would be a direct conflict with Ford Motor Co., one of WPP's top clients; DCMA, a joint venture between CIA and FCB Worldwide, handles media buying and planning for DaimlerChrysler in 60 global markets.
Another obstacle to a WPP acquisition would be Mr. Ingram himself, who is said to be on very chilly terms with Sir Martin. Tempus' acquisition streak may thus be motivated by other impulses. If the company keeps acquiring businesses--and issuing stock to make the deals--existing shares become diluted. WPP had owned a 20% stake, which has been chipped away by Mr. Ingram's shopping sprees. "If they can find a way to dilute" Sir Martin, said the executive close to Tempus, "they certainly will do it."
Meanwhile, Mr. Ingram soldiers on here in the States. "We are No. 19 in the U.S.A. And what we do about changing that, corporately, clearly occupies a reasonable part of my mind these days."