PERSPECTIVE: Envoy's acquisition of Leagas Delaney is intelligent and timely

Leagas Delaney, which has been bought this week by Canada's mysterious Envoy Communications for pounds 59 million (a 'modest' PE of 50, according to my financial spies!), is one of the few agencies that has lived up to its promise to rewrite the advertising rule book. Since opening its doors in 1980, it has been defined by a succession of award-winning ads for Timberland, Porsche, Philips, Harrods, Punch, The Guardian, the BBC and Adidas.

Leagas Delaney, which has been bought this week by Canada's mysterious Envoy Communications for pounds 59 million (a 'modest' PE of 50, according to my financial spies!), is one of the few agencies that has lived up to its promise to rewrite the advertising rule book. Since opening its doors in 1980, it has been defined by a succession of award-winning ads for Timberland, Porsche, Philips, Harrods, Punch, The Guardian, the BBC and Adidas.

It is precisely because it has not wavered from its founding principle - that hard work and excellent creative work are the only things that dignify this business - that the agency's history has been nothing if not eventful. In its early years it won, and subsequently lost, major clients in a manner that stretched most people's definition of bad luck.

It underwent a highly public falling out between the founders, and was rescued in 1986 by Abbott Mead Vickers SMS. In 1988, it was given back its independence at no real cost - of the pounds 4 million deal, only pounds 100,000 was paid in cash - and this week a grateful buyer with deep pockets has emerged to fund its future growth.

So much for history. This is the place to question the motives of the deal. While Tim Delaney - who owns 33 per cent of the group, according to accounts just filed at Companies House - has never pursued money for its own sake, he has seen far less talented people make millions out of their careers in advertising so, at 55, there must be a desire to cash in. The same goes for the chairman, Bruce Haines, (24 per cent) the media director, Jerry Fielder, (16 per cent) and the finance director, Eric McClean, (9 per cent).

Leagas Delaney can now continue to fund expansion across the globe and move further into design and online advertising, while retaining its independence and the spirit that makes it one of the most revered of UK agencies.

A few years ago it would have been easy to dismiss the agency's policy of putting creativity before everything as the reason it was destined to remain smallish, giving few opportunities for account people to make themselves into household names and offering scant appeal to international clients. Its expansion over the past few years into the US and Europe, and business wins from the likes of Adidas, Lycos and Telecom Italia, gives a lie to this. Now, thanks to cash from the deal, it will be able to travel even further afield.

And then there's the question of Tim Delaney himself. While there's no doubting his commitment or talent, surely everyone would prefer their testosterone to be cut with some of the more basic human virtues. But it is precisely this factor, the Tim 'nasty but right' intransigence, that has made his agency one of the most sought-after prizes in the business. We'll just have to wait and see if he's mellowed by all that cash.

caroline.marshall@haynet.com.