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VNU to buy ACNielsen in deal valued at $2.3 billion

Dutch publisher VNU plans to acquire ACNielsen, the world's largest market research firm, for $2.3 billion. In a deal expected to close in the first quarter of 2001, VNU will pay $36.75 a share for ACNielsen. The acquisition reunites ACNielsen with its former TV ratings unit, Nielsen Media Research, which was spun off separately by Dun & Bradstreet, former parent of both companies, in 1996. VNU acquired Nielsen Media research last year.

France's LVMH bids for Donna Karan, trademarks

French holding company LVMH Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton agreed to buy fashion designer Donna Karan's Donna Karan International for an estimated $195 million. LVMH also made a tandem offer to buy Gabrielle Studios, the licensor of the Donna Karan trademarks, for $450 million. If the acquisition is completed, Ms. Karan would be an investor and continue to act as chief designer, retaining creative leadership of the brand. One shareholder has filed suit against both companies, alleging the acquisition price is inadequate.

Montgomery Ward, Bradlees shut down

After more than 125 years in the retail business, Montgomery Ward is shutting its doors. The Chicago-based retailer has struggled financially for many years, though a 1999 plan to revamp stores revived hopes after its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Employees said owner General Electric Co. is pulling financial support due to disappointing holiday sales. Another big casualty of the slumping retail market is Bradlees; the Braintree, Mass.-based retailer also announced last week that it is going out of business. Agencies for Montgomery Ward and Bradlees are Laughlin Constable, Milwaukee, and Doner, Southfield, Mich., respectively.

Hearst dies at 85 after suffering massive stroke

Randolph A. Hearst, the former chairman of Hearst Corp. and last surviving son of press lord William Randolph Hearst, died Dec. 18 in New York. He was 85 and had suffered a massive stroke. Mr. Hearst served as chairman of the board at Hearst from 1973 to 1996 and held the title chairman emeritus until his death. Mr. Hearst, who shied away from the spotlight as much as his father sought it, was nevertheless thrust into it in 1974-when, while president of the family's flagship San Francisco Examiner, his paper covered the kidnapping of his daughter Patty, as well as her subsequent stint as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army and her trial and conviction for armed robbery.

New `Survivor' will enter Thursday-night lineup

CBS is hoping to be crowned king of the programming jungle now that its "Survivor: The Australian Outback" show-the latest version of the popular "Survivor" series-is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Thursdays. By positioning the program against NBC's powerhouse sitcom "Friends," starting Feb. 1, analysts say, CBS is aiming to grab a significant share of the adult 18-49 audience-something the network has lacked for years. The first episode of the new "Survivor" launches after the Super Bowl on Jan. 28. The CBS show also will face the 8:30 airing of NBC's "The Weber Show," starring comedian Steven Weber, which has been performing to low ratings.

Pfizer picks Merkley to handle Lipitor account

Pfizer tapped Merkley Newman Harty, New York, to handle its $55 million Lipitor account. Advice & Advisors was consultant. Cline, Davis & Mann; Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG; Gotham and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, all New York, were also in the review. Bates Worldwide, New York, was the incumbent. Lipitor is the most popular of the hot-selling class of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.

G&J announces plans to purchase `Fast Company'

Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing will acquire Mort Zuckerman's new-economy magazine Fast Company for $360 million plus up to $150 million in contingencies.

Though often identified as a boom book for the just-ended dot-com era, Dan Brewster, Gruner & Jahr's president and CEO, said Fast Company derived only 8% of its advertising from dot-coms-less, he said, than many consumer magazines. He added that the title would post profits of $20 million in 2000 and that the company expected to double that figure in 2001-which would be no mean feat in a year when a widespread ad slowdown is expected and at least one top magazine company expects flat ad-page growth. Fast Company will remain based in Boston, with its founding co-editors Bill Taylor and Alan Webber at the helm. Boston also is home to Inc., which G&J bought in June, but Mr. Brewster said the ad and edit staffs would remain separate.

Griffin Bacal cuts staff after losing Hasbro work

Omnicom Group's Griffin Bacal, New York, facing a grim future in the wake of losing Hasbro work, is cutting two-thirds of its staff. The agency will scale down from approximately 70 employees to 24. Half of the departing employees will be absorbed by the New York division of parent agency DDB Worldwide, while the other half will be laid off. The remaining core group of Griffin Bacal will be led by Paul Kurnit, current president and chief operating officer. Agency founders Tom Griffin, co-chairman and CEO, and Joe Bacal, co-chairman and creative services director, are retiring as of March 31.

Diageo, Pernod to buy Seagram's liquor business

Diageo, the world's largest spirits company, and Pernod Ricard announced an agreement to buy the Seagram Spirits & Wine business for about $8.15 billion in cash. The French-based Pernod will pay about 39% of the deal, or about $3.18 billion, while Diageo pays the other 61%, or $4.97 million. The British-French team will split the portfolio, with Pernod picking up Chivas Regal, Glenlivet whiskies, Martell Cognac and Seagram's Extra Dry gin as well as some leading national brands in Latin America, Asia and Europe. Diageo said it would get Captain Morgan spiced rum, Crown Royal and VO Canadian whiskey.

Philips fires Euro RSCG, consolidates its account

Philips Electronics is ending its 10-year relationship with Euro RSCG following a review and consolidating its estimated $600 million account at new agency DDB Worldwide and existing shop D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, effective June 30.

News of the account shifts came as a shock to incumbent Euro RSCG, according to an agency spokeswoman, who said Euro RSCG only learned Dec. 20 that there had been a review.

Real Media secures new financing, will restructure

Internet advertising network Real Media, New York, said it won an infusion of new financing, is restructuring its top management and has withdrawn its S-1 IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Long-time backer PubliGroupe, a Swiss ad services company, and the Destination Group, an equity investment and management firm, have committed to new financing and to support a significant cost-reduction program at Real Media. Real Media did not disclose the amount of


Priore leaves to head up JobsOnline

Anthony Priore, senior VP-marketing at CMGI-owned e-mail marketing company, will leave the company to become president of JobsOnline. Yesmail does not plan to fill the position, but will reorganize marketing under a new management structure led by CEO David Menzel. He succeeds David M. Tolmie, who will leave Yesmail in January.

Cincinnati media exec

is found murdered

Cassandra Betts, a 25-year-old marketing manager at Cincinnati media independent Empower MediaMarketing, was murdered Dec. 21, allegedly by a former boyfriend.

Ms. Betts, who was pregnant, had been shot in the head in the front seat of her car. She was found by her 7-year-old daughter, who had fallen asleep in the back seat. The car was still running and was parked outside a repair shop near Cincinnati.

Police charged Tony Ringer, 30, a former boyfriend of Ms. Betts, with aggravated murder on Dec. 23, the day he was scheduled to marry another woman. Mr. Ringer owns a barber shop frequented by pro athletes, several of whom posted his $500,000 bond.

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