CHICAGO—Bcom3, parent of Manning Selvage & Lee, has been acquired by French communications holding company Publicis Groupe to create the fourth largest communications holding company in the world. At the same time, Publicis has entered into a long-term strategic partnership with Dentsu, the Japanese ad giant that was a shareholder in Bcom3.
The move will combine under one umbrella Manning Selvage & Lee—the world’s 12th largest public relations firm based on revenues submitted to the Council of Public Relations Firms for the year 2000 of around $120 million—Rowland Worldwide, and Publicis Dialog and Publicis Consulting, which had revenues of $32 million in 2000. It seems likely, however, that the firms will continue to operate independently, at least initially.
According to MS&L chief executive Lou Capozzi, “This is great for the shareholders of Bcom3, it’s great for our clients because the get access to these great worldwide resources, and it’s great for Manning Selvage & Lee because we become the premier public relations operation in the fourth largest communications holding company in the world. It’s nothing but opportunity.
Publicis Groupe will acquire 100 percent of the capital of Bcom3 for $3 billion in stock and equity-linked securities. Publicis headquarters will remain in Paris. Maurice Levy will continue as Publicis’s chief executive officer, and Roger Haupt, currently chairman and chief executive officer of Bcom3, will become president and chief operating officer.
According to Levy, “This is a three-way alliance of global vision and complementary strengths that will deliver significant value to our clients. Bcom3 consists of some of the finest advertising and communications brands in the world, including Leo Burnett, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Manning Selvage & Lee, Bartle Bogel Hegarty, and the Starcom MediaVest media franchise. It is a rare and extremely attractive enterprise, with a unique culture, unparalleled creative portfolio, blue chip client list, and solid financial performance.
“In addition, our partnership with Dentsu gives our clients access to the second largest worldwide advertising market through the premier advertising company in Asia. Moreover we become an extremely well balanced company, with 49 percent of our revenues going forward generated from North America, 37 percent from Europe, and 14 percent from Japan and the rest of the world.”
Added Haupt, “When we formed Bcom3 and partnered with Dentsu two years ago, we recognized the need for a multicultural approach toward building client brands around the world. The merger and global alliance we are announcing today vastly enhances our ability to provide superior expertise and services through premier advertising agency brands and an extraordinary geographic base.”
The merger enhances Publicis’s specialized communications capabilities, in key growth areas such as healthcare communications with Medicus Group, which will complement the existing Nelson Communications and ethnic communications, where Publicis-owned Burrell, Conill and Publicis Sanchez & Levitan will be augmented by Bcom3’s Bromley Communications, Lapiz, New-A, Vigilante and other Pangea companies.
Publicis says it will ensure that the networks and units are managed autonomously, respecting their personalities, clients and brand identities, although at a press conference Levy said management “would putting every operation under a microscope” to determine how best to manage resources going forward. For now, each agency currently in the Bcom3 portfolio will continue to report to Haupt in his capacity as chief operating officer.