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Advertising giant Publicis in talks to buy Walker Media stake from old rival M&C Saatchi

The £35 million deal would mark a rapprochement between old rivals

Gideon Spanier
Thursday 21 November 2013 17:16 GMT
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The £35 million deal marks a rapprochement between old rivals, Publicis and M&C Saatchi
The £35 million deal marks a rapprochement between old rivals, Publicis and M&C Saatchi (GETTY IMAGES)

M&C Saatchi shares climbed 5 per cent in early trade today after the international advertising group announced plans to sell an estimated 75 per cent stake in its media-buying arm Walker Media for £35 million to French giant Publicis.

The deal is highly symbolic because it marks a rapprochement between old rivals.

Publicis owns Saatchi & Saatchi, the acclaimed creative agency founded in 1970 by Charles and Maurice Saatchi, who acrimoniously quit in 1995 to found M&C Saatchi as a breakaway.

Those close to M&C Saatchi emphatically dismissed suggestions that the Walker disposal could be a prelude to a sale of the whole group.

Walker is mainly UK-focused at present. Clients, which include Marks & Spencer, will gain overseas scale by becoming part of Publicis, which is itself in the midst of a mega-merger with America’s Omnicom.

Industry insiders said the sale was logical as scale matters in ad-buying, but it was still surprising.

Earlier this year, M&C Saatchi chief executive David Kershaw talked of “ever-growing conglomerates which will become more homogenous and bland on the one hand, and feisty independents on the other”.

M&C Saatchi owns 100% of Walker Media at present, having bought out senior management, led by co-founder and chairman Phil Georgiadis.

Maurice Saatchi, an M&C Saatchi director, predicted in 2010 his group would eventually merge with Saatchi & Saatchi “probably after I’m gone”.

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