The sale by the Omnicom-owned ad agency AMV of Freud Communications
should give heart to all PR agency founders. Those who regret selling to
large quoted conglomerates are legion - tales of unachievable
target-setting and interference in day-to-day management decisions make
this a problem unlikely to go away soon. Successful buy-backs are rare
An owner-managed firm will always be more agile in the marketplace than
one in which major decisions - on investment in products or new staff -
have to be cleared through tiers of management in New York. At a time
when holding company boards are insisting on belt-tightening at even
profitable subsidiaries, the temptation to buy their way out must have
been overwhelming for Matthew Freud and his team.
On the face of it, the deal makes less sense for AMV and its parent, the
NYSE-listed marketing services monster behind many of the biggest names
on the PR high street. Freud's was making money, and from methods which
weren't reliant on the exposed consumer ad budgets currently being
trimmed. Time will tell if Omnicom, which has issued only the most
cursory of business statements on the matter so far, knows something the
rest of us do not.
Freud's is known to have been granted more autonomy than many acquired
firms to get on with its business over the last seven years. It can now
do so in its own interests and those of its clients, without any
recourse at all to a higher being.