World Online, the Dutch internet service provider which has been
devalued by nearly two-thirds since its IPO in March, has appointed
Brunswick as its financial PR agency. Previously, financial PR was
handled by Citigate Dewe Rogerson.
No pitch is believed to have taken place. The European head of
communications at Goldman Sachs, Lucas Van Praag, who joined the firm
from Brunswick in January, is thought to have managed the appointment of
his former agency to the account. The investment bank led the World
Cary Martin, deputy chairman of Citigate Dewe Rogerson, claimed there
would have been a conflict with other clients (T-Online and Free-serve)
if work had continued. According to Martin, Citigate had received
special permission from these clients to handle the IPO.
He said: ’We were hired to cover the IPO work, and had a contract until
the end of the stabilisation period.’ He added that Citigate was still
dealing with press enquiries in the transitional period, until in-house
staff or another agency was appointed. The appointment was confirmed by
World Online’s chief executive Simon Duffy.
World Online has barely been out of the European media following
revelations that Nina Brink, its founder and chairman had sold the bulk
of her holding in the company last December - three months before World
Online’s IPO. She resigned as chairman last week.
Subsequently, the Dutch shareholders association (VEB) has launched a
claim for compensation against World Online, Goldman Sachs and the joint
global co-ordinator ABN Amro Rothschild, for lost funds. Shares were
initially offered at over pounds 26 each, but this week were valued at
under pounds 10.
The debacle has been described as ’a textbook example of how not to
handle an IPO’.