MWW buys back independence from IPG

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ: A management team at MWW Group, including CEO and founder Michael Kempner, bought back the agency from Interpublic Group, making MWW one of the top five independent firms.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ: A management team at MWW Group, including CEO and founder Michael Kempner, bought back the agency from Interpublic Group, making MWW one of the top five independent firms.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The agency, which was sold to IPG in 2000, is estimated to have $40 million in revenue in 2010. It has 200 employees in 10 offices.

The management-led buy-out was announced Tuesday and includes the Financial Relations Board, a financial communications agency that was merged into MWW eight years ago. Kempner said he is the majority shareholder, between 10 to 15 senior managers are minority shareholders, and there are multiple individual outside investors.

“When you're part of a global public company, you're very much focused quarter-to-quarter,” said Kempner. “When you're independent, there [are] only two things you have to focus on: That's your clients and your employees.”

MWW clients include McDonald's, Nikon, Sara Lee, Gold's Gym, and 1-800-Flowers.com. Kempner said that the firm is not losing any clients as a result of the buy-out.

He added that expanding the firm's global offering is key to MWW's growth. Although it has nine offices in the US, its only international office is in London.

“Under IPG, we didn't have the opportunity to make those investments,” said Kempner. “One of our core investments will be international.”

Kempner said the firm now ranks among the top five independent firms. Edelman, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Ruder Finn, and APCO Worldwide rank among the top four independent firms based on global revenue and according to PRWeek's agency business report.  

When Kempner, who founded MWW Group in 1986, sold the agency in 2000, it had 200 employees. It reported $27 million in revenue in 1999 and told PRWeek that it expected to generate $35 million in revenue in 2000.

“It was the perfect time to return to our more nimble, forward-thinking, innovative roots,” said Kempner about buying back the agency.

Harris Diamond, CEO of IPG's Constituent Management Group, said that IPG "wishes Michael and the firm well" but declined to provide additional comment.

When asked about plans for future acquisitions, Diamond said that IPG is "aggressively acquiring where we think we should," citing the acquisition of Cubocc, an integrated agency based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in March 2010.

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