WPP Buys Imaginet

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British ad conglomerate WPP Group PLC has bought Imaginet LLC, a Minneapolis Internet services consultancy.


The 10-year-old Imaginet will operate as a division of J. Walter Thompson Co., a WPP agency based in New York. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though it was agreed that Imaginet would retain a high degree of independence.


"One of the first things that was so attractive to us with WPP was the independence," said Scott Litman, CEO of Imaginet. "There was no name change and no changes in staffing other than the continuing growth in the business."


Negotiations with WPP had been ongoing for many months.


"We embarked on this and have been dealing with WPP really since the summer, and we looked at this as a mechanism of differentiation with some other players in the marketplace like Sapient," said Dan Mallin, president of Imaginet.


Other players include Razorfish, marchFirst, Viant and IBM.


Imaginet has nearly 110 employees in technology, business and design. Clients include Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Medtronic, The St. Paul Cos., Express Scripts, Dain Rauscher and DirectAG.com. Revenue last year was $14 million.


With this deal, Imaginet hopes to expand beyond Minneapolis to other U.S. cities through J. Walter Thompson, an agency with which it has worked in the past.


Litman said the Imaginet acquisition fills a gap in the WPP portfolio.


"We're accustomed to building very large-scale e-business applications," Litman said. "Our skill set is something that is not commonly found in the WPP family today."

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