LongAcre Partners assembles mini-holding company

LONDON - LongAcre Partners is trying to create a holding company composed of best-in-class independent agencies.

LongAcre, the corporate financial boutique that consulted on WCRS's management buyout, has approached a number of agencies, including Clemmow Hornby Inge, WCRS, the digital agency Oyster Communications and Naked Communications. However, no deal has yet been struck.

Establishing a "minicom" would enable independent agencies to combine their profits, creating a whole that would be sizeable enough to enable it to float on the stock market. The proposal would enable agency founders to release equity without selling to a larger group.

The "minicom" model would also enable the combined agencies to compete for consolidated business.

M&C Saatchi took this route earlier this year, when it floated on the Alternative Investment Market, a move that valued the agency at £75m. The flotation enabled the founders to cash in some of their equity and has also funded the agency's international expansion plans.

However, LongAcre's progress is understood to have been slowed by a number of sticking points,such as how to evaluate each agency's stake in the resulting group. The distribution of control and voting rights are also said to concern potential members.

Marcus Anselm, the Long-Acre vice-president, stressed that talks were only at an exploratory stage. He said: "We have a close relationship with most of the key independents in the marketing and ad sectors and are always discussing ideas with them."

LongAcre was set up by The Wireless Group's former managing director Jonnie Goodwin in 2000. To date, it has handled the WCRS buyout from Havas and the £55m buyout of the market research group Mori.

Robin Wight, WCRS's founding partner, said he knew nothing about the plans.

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