CHI sells stake to WPP

LONDON - When Sir Martin Sorrell read in Campaign that Havas chairman Vincent Bollore was waving his chequebook in front of Clemmow Hornby Inge, the WPP chief executive immediately picked up the phone to Johnny Hornby.

Two months later, the deal is done: Sorrell has his men and Havas has left empty handed. Clemmow Hornby Inge & Partners, as the agency is to be called, is now 49.9 per owned by WPP. The remaining 50.1 per cent of the company will be placed in an employee benefit trust, owned by the agency's partners.

The cash deal is rumoured to have involved a sum in the region of £30 million upfront, and has turned Hornby and his co-founders Simon Clemmow and Charles Inge into multimillionaires.

Hornby said: "WPP has undoubtedly the best array of digital and media buying talent and clout in the world and to be in partnership with it is a wonderful opportunity."

Sorrell added: "WPP is delighted to form a partnership with CHI. The proposed structure gives CHI the chance to capitalise on WPP's resources, while maintaining its independence."

The deal brings to an end an extensive courtship for the six-year-old start up, which began in Cannes last year when early talks were brokered by Long Acre between Hornby, Bollore and the Euro RSCG global chief executive, David Jones. The Japanese giant Dentsu is also understood to have held discussions. In contrast the WPP deal has taken a matter of weeks to reach fruition.

CHI & Partners will operate as an independent agency within WPP and, contrary to reports, will not be the London office of WPP's beleaguered United Network.

The move will allow the agency to extend its international reach for a number of key accounts, including its founding client, the Carphone Warehouse, and Toyota.

Under the terms of the WPP deal, Hall Moore CHI and Naked Inside will be fully integrated into CHI & Partners and will lose their individual brands. CHI & Partners will also offer full service media planning and buying, "powered" by WPP's Group M where necessary.

CHI was founded in May 2001 and now employs 151 staff. Revenues for the year ended 30 June 2006 were £18.5 million.