Bozell Sawyer Miller buys Charles Barker

Charles Barker - one of the best known brands in the PR business - has been bought by US PR group Bozell Sawyer Miller. The two companies had been in talks since December.

Charles Barker - one of the best known brands in the PR business -

has been bought by US PR group Bozell Sawyer Miller. The two companies had

been in talks since December.



The deal, which was completed last Friday, values Charles Barker at over

pounds 10.5 million. Its fee income last year was pounds 6.32 million,

with pre-tax profits of pounds 1.03 million.



The consultancy, the 11th biggest in the UK, will keep the Charles Barker

name. Chief executive Tim Sutton will continue in the same role, and Nan

Williams has been promoted to managing director.



The deal is the latest in a rush of purchases by ad agency groups and

their PR arms in recent months. BSM, owned by US ad agency group Bozell,

Jacobs, Kenyon and Eckhardt, is a major player in the US but relatively

unknown in Europe.



The deal gives the group a combined income of dollars 71 million and 600

staff, and establishes a bridgehead for the company in London and

Brussels.



Importantly, the deal also exploits their shared strengths in key areas

like corporate and public affairs, consumer marketing, and healthcare.



BSM chairman and CEO Harris Diamond said they had willingly paid ’a

premium’ to buy Charles Barker. ’We have invested in a pedigree business

with a pedigree brand,’ said Diamond. ’The company’s track record over the

last five years is outstanding.’



Charles Barker was wooed by a number of other suitors before signing with

BSM. ’We could have gone with a bigger group but not with one whose

business fitted so well with ours,’ said Sutton.



The two companies have already collaborated on several assignments, and

Charles Barker can expect further referrals from the US PR firm and its

sister ad agencies, including Delaney Fletcher Bozell in the UK.



With just under 50 per cent of the shares between them, the five main

shareholder directors - Sutton, Angela Heylin, Steve Gebbett, Evie Soames

and Jennifer Potter - all stand to gain up to the equivalent of pounds 1

million in the deal. Investment firm Ormonde held a 45 per cent stake, and

the rest was owned by other directors and staff.



Although there is no earn-out period, there will be an element of deferral

partly linked to future performance. Most of the senior directors have

signed long-term contracts.



The sale is bound to stir memories of the company’s controversial founding

in 1992 in an MBO from its collapsed former parent Corporate

Communications.



At the time it prompted outrage among campaigners urging a clamp down on

the ’phoenixing’ of collapsed companies. But an IPR investigation later

exonerated Heylin, who was the only former director of Corporate

Communications to join the MBO team, from any wrongdoing.



Sutton robustly defended the company’s position. ’We make no apology for

investing in this business, and we would not have done anything

differently,’ he said. ’Those that have got nothing better to do than talk

about that should get a life and get an agency.’



BSM has five operating units: strategic communications firm Sawyer Miller

Consulting; PR and marketing firm Bozell PR; KRC Research; advocacy

advertising firm Bozell/Eskew; and grassroots mobilisation specialist

Strategic Alliances Group.



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