Accenture and Karmarama deal to spark M&A frenzy

Accenture's surprise acquisition of Karmarama is set to trigger a wave of takeovers as consulting groups seek to buy creative agencies.

Karmarama: McGrath, Studzinski, Wilkins and Bilboul
Karmarama: McGrath, Studzinski, Wilkins and Bilboul

Brian Whipple, head of Accenture Interactive, told Campaign: "You will see us continue to make deals where it makes sense for us to grow in the main capability areas we have and/or geographically."

Karmarama is led by Jon Wilkins, executive chairman; Ben Bilboul, chief executive; Sid McGrath, chief strategy officer; and Nik Studzinski, chief creative officer. 

Wilkins said the estimated £50m sale, first revealed by Campaign on Tuesday, would allow Karmarama to offer more services to global clients.

Tristan Rice, partner at mergers and acquisitions consultancy SI Partners, said Accenture had made the "biggest possible play that it could have made" because Karmarama was the largest independent creative agency in the UK available, since Mother and Wieden & Kennedy are not for sale. He called the takeover "a very, very big statement of intent".

"It will prompt the other consulting firms to acquire in the communications space," Rice added, noting Deloitte, KPMG and EY had been buying agencies in digital, design and user experience until now. He predicted more takeovers across Europe.

Marcus Anselm, partner at M&A advisor Clarity, said the consulting groups have led a surge in buyers from "outside" the big six ad networks looking to buy marketing agencies. "There’s more to come," he forecast. 

Lorna Tilbian, Numis Securities’ head of media, said this "wider" group of buyers are motivated by "cross-selling and getting close to the client wherever there’s a solid relationship".

Wilkins is "confident our culture will flourish" in Accenture, which employs 384,000 people globally. Karmarama will keep its brand and Farringdon office for its 250 staff.

Wilkins and the senior management team will take international roles but Karmarama will not be rolled out to other markets.

Several dozen Karmarama staff will receive windfalls from the sale, along with Phoenix Equity Partners,

GP Bullhound, the boutique investment bank, advised Karmarama on the sale.

 

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