Weber, Cunningham dollars 70m deal in works

PALO ALTO, CA: Weber PR Worldwide will soon become the owner of one of the industry’s most coveted and available prizes, Cunningham Communications.

PALO ALTO, CA: Weber PR Worldwide will soon become the owner of one of the industry’s most coveted and available prizes, Cunningham Communications.

PALO ALTO, CA: Weber PR Worldwide will soon become the owner of one

of the industry’s most coveted and available prizes, Cunningham

Communications.



Sources told PRWeek last week that Weber is close to finalizing a

dollars 70 million deal to acquire Cunningham, which has been in play

for a number of years. Previous suitors had balked at Cunningham’s

reported dollars 90 million price tag.



The Weber/Cunningham juggernaut would instantly leapfrog to the top of

the list of hi-tech PR firms.



While the deal may not appear to make sense on the surface - the

agencies share the same hi-tech focus and boast offices in many of the

same locations - one source said that Weber has long held out hope of

pairing its resources with Cunningham’s to create the industry’s

preeminent hi-tech shop. Other factors motivating the deal may have been

the longtime friendship between Weber prexy Larry Weber and Cunningham

chairman and CEO Andy Cunningham, and Cunningham’s reported recent

difficulty remaining competitive in the hotly contested Silicon Valley

PR scene.



Still, questions remain as to whether the deal is feasible. For one,

there are likely to be extensive conflicts of interest among clients of

the two firms. Also, one source questioned whether Cunningham

Communications was willing to take a second-banana role: ’The agency has

such a huge ego that they would never settle for just being a trophy

brand for Weber.’



Sources weren’t clear about a potential role for Andy Cunningham, nor

whether Weber would snap up all six of Cunningham’s newly created

operating units. If Weber only acquires a few of the Cunningham arms,

however, this could reduce some of the potential conflicts.



Neither Larry Weber nor Andy Cunningham returned calls for comment.

Cunningham president/COO Joe Hamilton and marketing VP Trish Willcoxon,

however, denied the rumor of any deal.



Top 10 tech firms pending merger

1   Weber/Cunningham                42.7*

2   Waggener-Edstrom                40.9

3   Fleishman-Hillard               27.2

4   Brodeur Worldwide               26.7

5   Shandwick Internat’l            25.6

6   Copithorne & Bellows            23.6

7   Ketchum                         23.0

8   Manning Selvage & Lee           22.8

9   Edelman                         18.3

10  TSI Communications              15.9

*estimated, seven-month total Based on PRWeek Top 200 1998 PR income



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