Back in March, TDI acquired the French outdoor contractor Giraudy
for pounds 270 million. The deal included 70,000 French panels plus a
small Spanish subsidiary. This transaction, added to earlier deals in
Finland and the Netherlands, substantially enhanced TDI’s presence in
An important step forward. Last week we saw the company restructuring in
recognition of this - the UK’s senior management stepped up to take on
European roles in the recently created TDI Europe, clearing the way for
the creation of more defined local management structures in TDI’s main
Jeremy Male, TDI Europe’s chief executive, will be joined in the top
echelon by Tom Goddard as European chief operating officer, and Mike
Baker as European marketing director. Stepping up to take the reins of
the UK operation are Clive Punter, the UK sales director, and Andrew
Oldham, the UK commercial director. They will become joint managing
Many in the UK market greeted this news as evidence that TDI has finally
got its act together in regard to Europe, placing it firmly in a
triumvirate that also includes JCDecaux and Clear Channel International,
the parent company of More Group in the UK.
For some, though, it served to emphasise the fact that TDI comes in
third in this triumvirate - and is likely to remain in third place, with
opportunities to expand elsewhere in Europe severely limited.
CCI and Decaux have Scandinavia and Iberia pretty much sewn up and in
both Italy and Germany ownership of the medium is so fragmented that
there is no simple means of entry.
Many also chose to focus on the possibility that the appointments may
weaken the company’s UK operation. One source says: ’I’m flabbergasted
at what they have done. For a start, I always think it’s potentially
disastrous to create joint managing directors. Even the best of friends
can become enemies in that situation. But I think there were possibly
more appropriate people around within TDI to fill the managing director
role. The main implication for me is that they are perhaps taking their
eye off the ball in the UK.’
This sort of analysis - by no means uncommon - is typical of the
spectacularly parochial attitude that we still tend to adopt in the
TDI, lest we forget, isn’t a plucky British company taking its first
brave steps beyond these shores. TDI has always been the European
outpost of Infinity Broadcasting, one of the world’s largest outdoor
media owners courtesy of its purchase of Outdoor Systems in the US for
dollars 8 billion.
Moreover, the UK wasn’t the only string to TDI’s bow - before the recent
deals it already had a presence in Ireland and the Netherlands. The
latest personnel moves reflect the fact that there’s a bigger job to be
done outside the UK.
Giraudy, for instance, was held in mothballs for two years by a venture
capital company that had acquired it as part of a larger deal.
Giraudy needs loads of love, care and attention - basically a lot of
investment and a relaunch. That’s more than enough for TDI’s top guns to
be getting on with.
Male is more disappointed than angry about all the talk of TDI taking
its eye off the ball in the UK. He says: ’Anyone who knows anything
about it knows that Clive and Andrew make a great team. The changes
we’ve seen are designed to create further opportunities for change.
We’ll be making more appointments as we go along.’
TDI’s message, it seems, is that just because further expansion is
difficult, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Male adds: ’There are more opportunities out there than you’d think and
we certainly see substantial opportunities for growth.
’It would be wrong to presume we focus only on transport, as our
purchase of Giraudy shows. In the UK it’s true that we have a pedigree
in transport but we believe we can take our expertise and apply it to
other businesses. With some acquisitions, such as Giraudy, we’ll get
expertise from them in return.’