Shandwick holds talks about possible merger

Shandwick International, the world’s largest independent PR consultancy, is reported to be in talks with US-owned ad agency group True North about a possible deal.

Shandwick International, the world’s largest independent PR

consultancy, is reported to be in talks with US-owned ad agency group

True North about a possible deal.



As PR Week went to press, Shandwick issued a statement to the Stock

Exchange in response to market speculation.



’The company has been holding preliminary discussions with selected

major business partners about a range of strategic options which may or

may not lead to a collaboration,’ it said. ’These options may include a

substantial minority investment in the company or, potentially, an offer

being made for the whole of the issued share capital.’



The company would not name the potential partners, and stressed that the

talks were ’at very early stages’.



Shandwick has been the subject of merger speculation before, but Panmure

Gordon analyst Paul Richards said a deal with True North sounded

’plausible’.



True North, which concluded a protracted deal to buy rival ad group

Bozell Jacobs Kenyon and Eckhardt last month, already has a 4 per cent

stake in Shandwick. Its other PR interests now include US PR group

Bozell Sawyer Miller, which itself bought Charles Barker last July.



The news of a possible deal comes shortly after Shandwick announced a

re-organisation of its UK operation. It has relaunched its seven UK

firms as a single agency, and rebranded them accordingly.



At the same time, the agency’s regional director for Asia, Michael

Murphy, is to take over as managing director of Shandwick UK, reporting

to group chief executive Dermot McNulty. Murphy replaces Colin Trusler,

who takes up the new global post of group operations director.



Five of the seven UK firms will now simply be known as Shandwick, while

Welbeck/ Golin Harris becomes Shandwick/Welbeck from May. Only Paragon

will keep its identity in order to deal with potential client

conflicts.



The seven chief executives will retain responsibility for their own

profit centres and sit on a new Shandwick UK management committee, led

by the UK managing director. Each operation will also contribute to

joint ’enterprise groups’ focusing on issues such as new business and

innovation.



The agency also plans to form specialist teams covering areas such as

broadcast, financial, public affairs, brand placement and

healthcare.



The move completes the integration of the original UK businesses

acquired by Shandwick during its massive growth spurt in the 1980s.

’These changes both simplify our operations and will reveal a better

connected organisation,’ said Trusler, who led the re-branding

process.



Leader, p9.



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