Williams Worldwide Sold to Century Media

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Williams Worldwide Inc., Santa Monica, CA, was acquired by Century Media Inc., also of Santa Monica, ending months of speculation about the DRTV media agency's future following a year of difficulties. Terms of the deal, which was finalized May 3, were not disclosed.

Kathleen Williams, president and CEO of Williams Worldwide, said the company had also negotiated a sale agreement with Carat Group Inc., a European media holding giant based in London. Century Media will rename the company Williams Direct. Williams took the title of chairperson emeritus and works in an advisory capacity for the company.

"This is the right marriage at the right time," said Gerald Bagg, senior management supervisor for Williams. "We have been seeking buyers for awhile, but others did not have better offers."

Century Media, an affiliate of Century Entertainment LLC, Los Angeles, acquired all assets and a portion of the liabilities of Williams. The 40 to 50 employees of Williams will now be employed by Century.

"Century has been in the entertainment business; they have studios and will now be doing direct response television," Bagg said. "For many years we have been a one-stop shop service for our clients, and Century will continue to provide the same services to the clients they acquired."

Troubles in Mexico

Williams said the sale of the domestic division of her operations will not affect the operations of her international division, Williams Worldwide Television (WWT), which industry insiders say is troubled.

One source familiar with its operations in Mexico said WWT is having difficulty buying media on cable stations in Mexico that are owed money. WWT made overtures to E.G. Enterprises Inc., Hicksville, NY, about cooperating in Mexico, which is perceived as an indication of the deteriorating relationship between Williams and Mexican cable networks.

Williams denied the relationship with E.G. Enterprises is a result of financial hardships. Calls to E. G. Enterprises were not returned by press time.

"We are working with E.G. on a project-by-project basis," she said. "We are not partnering with them; they will be working with us in Mexico and we will be working with them on some of their projects."

The sale of Williams Worldwide to Century is the latest chapter in the story of a DRTV agency that rose to the top of the infomercial industry and was successful in luring major corporations into long-form advertising.

The agency was founded in 1987 by Williams, who formerly worked for Hawthorne Communications Inc., Fairfield, IA. At its peak, Williams reported $80 million in billings and boasted a list of blue-chip clients, including Philips Consumer Electronics NA, Quaker State Motor Oils and Hanes.

The agency was negatively impacted by last year's bankruptcy of one of its biggest clients, Kent & Spiegel Direct Inc., Culver City, CA. Williams consolidated its operations and underwent a series of layoffs.

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