EDITORIAL: Diamond is the man for monster merger

Interpublic's acquisition of True North is still to be approved by

shareholders and there are other options still to be considered, but the

possibility of a merger between Weber Shandwick Worldwide (WSW) and BSMG

is a mouth-watering prospect.

Forget the fact that it creates the first dollars 500 million PR agency

(dollars 534 million, actually). This merger makes better strategic

sense than the original merger of Weber and Shandwick. That original

merger did nothing to address the critical absence of a New York or

Chicago base for WSW.

It did not advance its weak position in healthcare, investor relations

and consumer. And while the overlap helped Golin/Harris, notably in its

public affairs offering, the friction between these old foes, especially

in hi-tech, has been plain to see.

Compare that with the fit between Weber Shandwick and BSMG. In Chicago,

BSMG has a dollars 40 million practice. In New York, BSMG is a dollars

35 million player.

And BSMG also plugs a gap in Portland, OR, while greatly boosting its

presence in Texas, and giving it No. 1 status in LA. BSMG also brings a

massive investor relations and strong corporate/financial arm to the

party, market-leading strength in consumer (including the "milk

mustache" account, Dunkin Donuts and the No. 1 travel division) and its

fast-growing healthcare business, which would make the combined

operations a top five healthcare player.

The merger has obvious attractions for BSMG as well. Despite a strong

consumer arm, it lacks the celebrity/Hollywood connections of WSW. It's

strong in public affairs and issues advocacy advertising, but has no

lobbying operations and only a small presence in London and


It's no slouch in hi-tech, but not a major player either. And it has no

outposts in Minnesota and Seattle. Best of all, what BSMG has lacked

most (and has been attempting to build) is a true global network. It

could also benefit from WSW's investment in technology.

What's more, client conflicts appear to be very few. In fact, the two

agencies actually share some clients (HP, TMP Worldwide, Microsoft.)

As with all issues, the challenge is to make the whole greater than the

sum of its parts. And, of course, there are bound to be huge issues

involved in making such a merger come together, with political friction,

uncertainty, branding confusion, cultural issues and some overlap to


But with no shortage of political friction, uncertainty, branding

confusion, cultural issues and overlap still to overcome at Weber

Shandwick itself, it's arguable that further merging BSMG into the

operations won't make it any worse. In fact, potentially, the injection

of BSMG management could make it a whole lot better. With wholesale

resignations (and firings) of Shandwick senior management either prior

to or following the WSW merger, and the imminent departure of CEO Larry

Weber's right-hand woman, president and COO Marijean Lauzier - not to

mention his own high-flying role within IPG - Weber has a lack of strong

management to call on.

BSMG brings strong management in many areas. And in BSMG CEO Harris

Diamond, Weber would have possibly the best young CEO in the PR game. If

anyone can make it work, Diamond can.

He's smart, likeable, a great leader, and he relishes the detail as much

as Weber dismisses it. It could be a marriage made in heaven.

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