N.Y. Shop’s Ties With Saatchi & Saatchi Have Been Weakening
BOSTON–Snyder Communications has been negotiating to buy Cliff Freeman and Partners from Saatchi & Saatchi, a deal that would be structured to give Snyder’s Arnold Communications a presence in New York, sources said.
In recent weeks, sources have said repeatedly that Arnold was close to making an acquisition in New York. The talks, however, hit a snag last week over the issue of price, said sources.
A reporting structure and a new name were both worked out, but Saatchi and Cliff Freeman were not satisfied with the financial terms, sources said. Snyder stock has stagnated in recent months, hovering near its 52-week low; it closed down marginally Friday at $27.9375.
Arnold’s most recent acquisitions–Ingalls Moranville in San Francisco and BDDH in London–have added the Arnold name and report to Arnold chief executive Ed Eskandarian.
Principal Cliff Freeman denied a deal was “imminent” and said that “there were no current discussions.” He declined further comment.
Snyder would be a better cultural fit for Freeman, sources said, since it is more entrepreneurial than Saatchi. Arnold (with billings of $860 million and revenues of $109 million) has recently been riding high on its creative efforts for Volkswagen.
Freeman’s relationship with Saatchi, which has often been rocky, may have grown stale, sources said.
A sale would save Saatchi the media resources it provides Freeman and end concerns over its poor financials.
Freeman claimed 1998 billings of $300 million and revenues of $30 million. Over the past year it lost Little Caesars, Allied Domecq and last week Ameritech, only partially replacing them with clients like e-commerce firm Outpost.com [see page 8].
Freeman was formed in 1987 to stop its dynamic creative leader from bolting Saatchi and to provide a home for conflicts, namely Little Caesars. In 1995, Saatchi had to negotiate anew to keep the shop from acquisitive suitors. Chief executive Kevin Roberts has since repositioned Saatchi as a global “ideas company,” and with Tod Seisser as chief creative officer, Saatchi believes it no longer needs Freeman as a creative lightning rod, sources said.
The chance to work on Arnold’s account for New York McDonald’s franchisees was also an attraction for Freeman, sources said.
“We talk to a number of people all the time,” a Saatchi representative said, but “Cliff Freeman is not for sale.” Snyder and Eskandarian declined comment.