EDITORIAL: Don't bet against a Bell/Freud deal

You can tell the silly season has arrived when both sides of a 'merger speculation' item deny it yet the story runs for days. But there is more to the saga of Lord Bell's Chime Communications and Matthew Freud's eponymous outfit than meets the eye. Although it's clear the quoted group is not about to announce a full acquisition of the consumer shop, the pair are clearly up to more than just 'working together on one key client'.

Apart from anything else, to call it a merger flatters Freuds and delivers Bell a snub. The former has a business of 100 staff and fee income of £7m; the latter's companies employ around 800 and have turnover of almost £100m. A 'merger' it is not.

It may be this realisation that led the more sour voices within the Freud empire to point derisively at Chime's depressed share price and profit warnings, and to finger them as the driving force behind so much of this week's 'annoying' editorial.

Despite this, Bell and Freud remain mutually respectful and conscious of what each can add to the other's business. If Bell is right that the future of marcoms lies in leveraging media content, celebrity and brands, then the access Chime has to boardrooms, combined with Freuds' unique role in entertainment, make a compelling combination.

Don't expect an announcement from the RNS this week, but within a couple of years, amid friendlier markets? Don't bet against it.

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