Between the Lines - Holding out on selling out

The success stories of 2004 were, almost without exception, about mid-sized independent creative agencies. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that a swarm of ambitious new holding companies has been running their calculators over these shops for the past few months.

Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners' sale to Creston last week is a prime example (page 19). But several of Creston's rivals are also frantically attempting to set up meetings with the likes of Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, Clemmow Hornby Inge, WCRS and others.

One of the most surprising is the former Ogilvy chief executive Paul Simons, now said to be in the market for acquiring an ad agency and has talked to DFGW. The Canadian operator Cossette, too, has had talks with both DLKW and MCBD. MDC, fronted by Chuck Porter, has met with most independents - so far to no avail.

So what's the hold-up? Sources say the independents are holding out for more lucrative offers. It makes sense, there's no sign yet that their steep growth curves are tapering off. It's also a lot more fun working for yourself, particularly when things are going so well, than it is attempting to meet the needs of a demanding holding company parent.

CHI's decision to resign Expedia, its biggest-spending client in 2004, shows that it, for one, has no intention of selling out quite yet.