The Shire Hall Group, the UK’s second largest PR medical
specialist, is to remain an independent entity within its new parent
company, WPP, rather than being absorbed into an existing PR
WPP owns two full-service PR networks with healthcare divisions, and at
least 15 medical advertising agencies.
The deal, reportedly worth pounds 10 million, means WPP now owns the
second and third largest UK healthcare PR specialists - Shire Hall and
Hill and Knowlton - worth pounds 7 million in combined fees.
Shire Hall finally tied the knot with WPP last week after five months of
in-depth discussions. The agency will come under the umbrella of WPP’s
specialist communications division, which includes leading medical
advertising firms. But Shire Hall will not join Common Health, the loose
affiliation of WPP-owned medical consultancies.
Chief executive Margot James said: ’We want the benefits of WPP, but
felt it was important to retain autonomy in terms of existing client
relationships. To have joined another network where there would be a
number of pharmaceutical clients would have led to potential
Speculation has mounted over the past year that Shire Hall was up for
sale, including rumours linking it to Ogilvy PR Worldwide (PR Week, 14
May) - now a sister agency within WPP.
James and chairman Patrick Benson were in talks with nine communications
services groups or divisions before settling on WPP. The decision to
sell follows a year in which Shire Hall’s fee income rose by just one
per cent to pounds 4.2 million, compared with stronger performances in
James and Benson will continue to head the company they founded 13 years
ago, reporting to WPP specialist communications divisional CEO John