Dentsu attempts digital landgrab with AKQA bid

Dentsu is to make an audacious $600m (£383m) for digital specialist AKQA, sources at the network have confirmed.

Ahamed Ajaz: founder of AKQA (picture: Colin Stout)
Ahamed Ajaz: founder of AKQA (picture: Colin Stout)

The Japanese advertising network has been linked with a number of agencies since it announced it was going on an acquisition spree, but this is the clearest indication yet that the company is looking to get a toehold in the UK market.

AKQA was founded in by Ajaz Ahmed in 1995 and has an estimated 800 employees, with offices in London, Amsterdam, New York, Washington D.C. San Francisco and Shanghai. It works for clients including Coca-Cola, Fiat, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nike and Visa.

The private equity firm General Atlantic took a key stakeholding in the independent agency in 2007, which, at the time, was understood to be worth up to $250m (£160m).

Sources suggest that General Atlantic would welcome a sale, but that the co-founders of the agency, Ahmed, and chief executive Tom Bedecarre, would prefer to take the company down the route of an IPO (initial public offering).

Dentsu already has some European interests, with a stake of more than 11% in France-based Publicis Groupe. It took a shareholding in the network in 2002, when Publicis bought BCom3, in which Dentsu had a 22% stake. BCom3 owned D'Arcy, Leo Burnett, Starcom MediaVest and Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

In July, AKQA took on Matt Bennett and Will Battersby as a creative team.

Bennett and Battersby were formerly at digital and creative agency 20:20, where they created digital campaigns for clients including Virgin 1, COI and Diageo. They also developed campaigns for Burger King, eBay and Vauxhall while at DLKW.