The MBO, led by a team including Smithfield chairman John Antcliffe, comes as bosses at rival agency Financial Dynamics International thrash out the final details of their own MBO from parent Cordiant Communications.
Chime’s sale of Smithfield leaves the group with just one financial PR brand, Bell Pottinger Financial, from which Smithfield was formed in 1998.
The MBO marks a U-turn in Chime chairman Lord Bell’s strategy for the troubled group - he ruled out selling any of Chime’s PR operations last year after issuing profit warnings (PRWeek, 22 November 2002).
He said this week: ‘We don’t need two brands in the financial PR market at this time.’
Bell denied rumours that Smithfield was sold for £1, confirming Chime will be paid a deferred consideration based on financial performance over the next five years, capped at £1.2m.
It is understood Chime was keen to offload Smithfield, which has had a troubled last couple of years and was forced to close its Frankfurt office last summer.