Dome in talks with several potential buyers for agency

CHICAGO: Dome Communications, once one of the hottest consumer PR shops in the Midwest, is talking to several potential suitors about a sale.

CHICAGO: Dome Communications, once one of the hottest consumer PR shops in the Midwest, is talking to several potential suitors about a sale.

But Doug Dome, agency founder and CEO, denied a report in the Chicago Tribune last week that Hill & Knowlton was in advanced discussions to buy his firm.

"It's true I'm entering conversations with several potential buyers," Dome said, but added that no deal on a possible sale has been finalized.

Hill & Knowlton would neither confirm nor deny that it was in the process of talking to Dome about a purchase.

Dome said he decided to put out the "For Sale" sign because he felt the agency needed more resources to attract major clients in the future.

"We've climbed the mountain, and we've succeeded," said Dome, himself a mountain climber in his leisure time. "Now we are looking for a bigger mountain and to pursue a bigger mountain, we need better equipment." Being part of a global agency will give him more access to research and a global office network that major clients seek, he said.

The agency had experienced rapid growth during the first five of its seven years in business. But last year, it lost major client ConAgra, which decided to consolidate PR and selected Ketchum as its AOR.

Dome's revenue still rose last year to $10.7 million from $10.1 million in 2002, but the major revenue impact from the ConAgra decision was expected to hit it this year.

Dome's employee count has dropped from the 46 reported for the 2004 PRWeek rankings to about 30 now.

"I had to make an adjustment," Dome told PRWeek at the time of the employee lay-offs last July. "Our aggressive growth, while still very aggressive, was curtailed."

Dome said ConAgra's decision indicates a trend by major client companies to consolidate their PR with major agencies, shutting out small- and medium-size shops.

One Chicago PR veteran said Dome would be a good fit for H&K, which has been attempting to boost its consumer PR presence in the city. Last October, it hired Steve Singerman from Edelman to become its Chicago GM and also head of its US marketing practice.

After Edelman, Dome has "clearly been the dominate consumer shop in town," the veteran said.

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