Shire Hall will remain independent in WPP

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 network.

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

network.



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

conflicts.’



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

past years.



James and Benson will continue to head the company they founded 13 years

ago, reporting to WPP specialist communications divisional CEO John

Zweig.



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