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UTA AT AD HOUSE DOOR

Young & Rubicam weighs percentery buyout

United Talent Agency, which has retained investment banker Schroder-Wertheim to help search for a financial partner, is in early discussions with advertising agency Young & Rubicam for a possible buyout, sources said Thursday.

UTA has enlisted the help of the banking firm to explore various financial options for the agency. Insiders at UTA, which has been looking quietly for a financial partner for the past year, confirmed only that the Gotham-based Young & Rubicam is a leading contender.

Y&R is apparently interested in acquiring a talent agency so that it can use its roster of stars and directors to package commercials and attract major accounts. UTA reps such talent as thesps Jim Carrey, Sandra Bullock, Anthony Edwards, Janeane Garofalo and Andre Braugher. Other clients include scripters Judd Apatow and Joss Whedon, and “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf.

If a purchase goes through, Young & Rubicam is expected to leave the five UTA partners in place, sources said. They include agents Marty Bauer, Jim Berkus, Nick Stevens, Jeremy Zimmer and Peter Benedek. Its TV packages include “Married … with Children” and half of “Mad About You” with William Morris.

The buyout may, however, form a conflict of interest for the ad house, which handles media buys worldwide for United Intl. Pictures, the overseas distribution partnership of Universal, Paramount and MGM.

It was also unclear whether it’s even legal for a talent agency to be owned by an advertising firm, which routinely structures deals with major stars to hawk products.

Young & Rubicam is one of the biggest ad houses in the world, with $10 billion in worldwide billings in 1995, and a gross income that topped $1 billion. The agency has 325 offices in 117 cities and 64 countries throughout the world.

A spokesman for Young & Rubicam had no comment.

(Anita M. Busch contributed to this report.)

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