Reports: Grey Global Group Up for Sale

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Grey Global Group, one of the last freestanding agency holding companies and parent of Grey Direct and Grey Interactive, is up for sale, according to unconfirmed reports in the ad trade media.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. and even possibly J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. have been hired to examine sale options, according to reports by Advertising Age and Adweek. The reports come soon after the sparsely traded Grey stock rose to an all-time high June 22.

Jan Sneed, who heads Grey Global Group corporate communications in the New York headquarters, and Grey Direct chairman/CEO Larry Kimmel declined to talk to DM News.

Reports in the media claim that France's Publicis Groupe, Britain's WPP Group PLC and Japan's Dentsu are keen to buy Grey. Another French ad conglomerate, Havas Advertising, has been in sporadic, unsuccessful negotiations over the years to merge with Grey.

Ed Meyer, chairman and president/CEO since 1970, controls Grey.

"Ed Meyer has done a great job of building a solid organization, and [Grey Worldwide North America CEO] Steve Blamer is respected in the agency for his ability not only to lead it, but grow it," said Tom Rosenwald, partner in charge of the consumer and healthcare practice at Ray and Berendtson, a New York executive search firm long doing business with Grey.

"Grey's been known for its ability to grow its client business as opposed to winning awards," he said. "Bringing Tim Mellors in is a clear sign of Steve Blamer's goal of improving the image of the agency as it relates to the creative product."

To try to boost its creative ranks, Grey on June 18 announced the hiring of Tim Mellors as president and chief creative officer of Grey Worldwide North America, New York.

Grey is the world's seventh-largest ad conglomerate. Revenue was up 9 percent last year to $1.3 billion, with net income of $29 million. U.S. revenue was $547 million. With nearly 10,000 employees worldwide, Grey produces advertising for clients like Procter & Gamble, Mars/Masterfoods, BellSouth, Diageo, Panasonic and GlaxoSmithKline.

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