CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: A promising future for Leagas Delaney thanks to this deal

Last week’s announcement by Tim Delaney and Bruce Haines that they are finally buying Leagas Delaney from the Abbott Mead Vickers Group is a relief all round. Ironic relief for Delaney, perhaps, as it coincides with his former partner, Ron Leagas (who fell out with Delaney in 1985) calling in the receivers.

Last week’s announcement by Tim Delaney and Bruce Haines that they

are finally buying Leagas Delaney from the Abbott Mead Vickers Group is

a relief all round. Ironic relief for Delaney, perhaps, as it coincides

with his former partner, Ron Leagas (who fell out with Delaney in 1985)

calling in the receivers.



The generous deal suggests AMV was not at all keen to remain in place as

what Delaney calls his ’benign backer’. Of the total pounds 4 million,

only pounds 100,000, split between five directors, is in cash. The rest

is in shares and a tax-delaying loan note.



In its 12 years with AMV, Leagas Delaney has never been a second-string

agency in the conventional sense. It doesn’t sit comfortably with AMV’s

recent acquisition strategy under which it has bought some of the best

marketing services companies. However, even with hindsight, AMV says it

would have engineered its friendly bailout again. As Peter Mead recalls,

shareholders and the City were pleased to see it going for quality and

like-mindedness in its first move after flotation.



The Delaney/Haines partnership looks like a recipe for success. Haines,

who has worked at Leagas Delaney twice (once from 1986 to 1992 when he

was installed as part of the AMV rescue package, and again from 1994)

has brought in the customers and hired quality account management to

keep them happy, while Delaney and his team have worked around the clock

to produce award-winning campaigns.



It’s not as simple as that, of course, and the agency has its turkeys

(eg Bendicks) to go with gems such as Adidas and showcase clients like

the BBC. However, it has consistently positioned itself as the place for

clients who want high-profile, uncompromising creative work. In a market

where there are plenty of agencies willing to be all things to all

people, this has earned the shop a distinct personality. Must this

attitude change now? As long as Adidas is in place, it looks

unlikely.



The consequences of the deal for Leagas Delaney will only become clear

with hindsight. Perhaps this is why there is a view in the industry that

we should take a longer term view of agencies’ achievements, a sort of

longevity index to rate the elite. This feeling is coming across

strongly from those agencies that have taken us to task for not being

generous enough in our assessment of their 1997 performance in our Top

300 issue last month. In some cases, it would still reveal a gulf

between an agency’s opinion of itself and the (hopefully) more

dispassionate view held by Campaign. In Leagas Delaney’s case, however,

I think there would be unanimity on its contribution to the creative

standing of the UK advertising industry over the past couple of decades.

The reason is simple: it’s one of the best.



Stefano Hatfield’s column is on page 55.



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