Edelman buys France's biggest independent agency ELAN

Edelman, the world's biggest PR network, has today bought all the shares of ELAN, France's biggest independent communications consultancy, in a bid to break into the top three agencies in the country.

Edelman and ELAN: (l-r) Michael Stewart, Richard Edelman and Marion Darrieutort
Edelman and ELAN: (l-r) Michael Stewart, Richard Edelman and Marion Darrieutort

ELAN will merge with Edelman’s existing French operation, creating an agency with 140 staff and billings exceeding €14m (£11m / $18m).

Richard Edelman, global CEO, told PRWeek he wanted his agency be a top three player in France, which is the world’s fifth largest economy. He admitted that his agency had been "underweight here", where the market is led by Publicis, Havas and Burson-Marsteller.

ELAN’s founder Marion Darrieutort was a director in Edelman’s Paris office prior to launching her venture in 2008.

ELAN has since overtaken Edelman in France, where it opened an office in 1989, building up billings of €8m (£6.3m / $10m) and 70 staff.

"I’ve always admired Marion," said Edelman. "She is highly entrepreneurial and her business, like ours, is all about client service and good ideas."

ELAN’s client list includes L’Oreal and ING. The merged company will add these European businesses to Edelman’s multinational clients such as Starbucks, HP and GE.

Darrieutort said: "This is a hugely exciting time for all of us at ELAN. We are proud of the reputation we have built over the past six years, and now look forward to capitalising on our roots in PR to seek new market share and international presence."

Darrieutort now becomes general manager of the merged consultancy, reporting to Michael Stewart, Edelman’s CEO, Europe & CIS.

Stewart said: "We know the Eurozone will be challenging for some time and that growth will be hard to come by. But ELAN is proof that world-class work and the best talent can create growth. Marion has proven that building a great firm is possible in this climate."

Both Edelman and Stewart viewed ELAN as having the digital-first, integrated culture that complements the global blueprint for Edelman's future that the agency chief set out to PRWeek in July.

Stewart added: "This investment is another leap forward in our ambition to grow at scale in Europe and to bolster our offer for the future, by bringing in and developing new capabilities."

More than half of Edelman’s European income currently derives from the UK, which has billings of more than £46m ($75m / €58m). The agency wants to reduce the UK’s share to 35 per cent by building up its operations in France and Germany.

In June this year Edelman acquired Swedish PR agency Deportivo and merged it with its own Stockholm office to form Edelman Deportivo.

The Edelman and ELAN combination is expected to have a joint name, most likely Edelman ELAN, but it is not yet clear what it will be.

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