McCann loses £60m BHI

IPG forces London agency to withdraw from £350m Reckitt Benckiser repitch.

McCann Erickson London has been forced to resign its global Boots Healthcare International business, which is estimated to be worth up to £60 million.

The resignation, which involves brands including Nurofen, Clearasil and Strepsils, follows instructions from its Interpublic parent that it withdraw from the £350 million global Reckitt Benckiser pitch. An IPG spokesman said: "I can confirm that McCann is no longer in the Reckitt pitch."

IPG's order to pull out of the review was made to avoid a breach of contract with SC Johnson, held by McCann's IPG sibling FCB for 50 years.

The pitch now includes the two remaining Reckitt incumbents, Euro RSCG and JWT.

McCann, a former Reckitt incumbent, was previously forced to resign its business in 2001 following IPG's purchase of FCB. The agency became a roster shop again when Reckitt purchased BHI in October 2005. McCann has held the BHI account since 1997.

An IPG source said the agency was told to pull out of the pitch several weeks ago. The London office asked IPG for time to persuade Reckitt to reconfigure its review. It wanted to defend its healthcare business, but not pitch for any work that would cause conflict with SC Johnson.

However, SC Johnson, which contributes £32 million a year to IPG, is understood to have called in lawyers to examine the apparent breach of contract caused by McCann's inclusion in the Reckitt pitch.

It remains unclear how Reckitt will split its business following the decision, but Euro RSCG London is now understood to be the frontrunner on the healthcare side.

Reckitt Benckiser called the review in March, and saw the three incumbents charged with creating a television commercial for one of three Reckitt brands: Clearasil; Veet, which is held by JWT; and Air Wick, which is handled by Euro RSCG.

McCann Erickson did not return calls. Reckitt Benckiser declined to comment.

- Opinion, p17.