U.K. PR firm Freud in Publicis’ control

Agency valued at $85-97 mil

LONDON — PR maven Matthew Freud has sold a 50.1% stake in his firm, Freud Communications, to French advertising powerhouse Publicis.

Deal values the agency at between $85 million and $97 million, and will see the well-connected son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch personally rake in a reported $25 million.

With clients including the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, Working Title, Miramax, Sony Pictures, Time Warner and AOL, Freud is a key player in the U.K. market. Firm approached Publicis a year ago in an effort to facilitate the growth of its international biz.

According to Matthew Freud’s right-hand man, Kris Thykier, international expansion, especially into the fast-emerging Chinese market, has been something the firm’s clients have been increasingly focused on.

“It has become apparent that we need a big group structure to realize our international goals. Last year I made something like 40 trips to the U.S.”

“A partnership with the Publicis Group must be the ultimate goal for any independent marketing agency,” said Freud, who will remain at the helm. The three nonexecutive directors, Neil Blackley, Alex Johnson and Michael Glynn, have agreed to sell out when the deal is closed in the next eight weeks.

The controlling interest in Freud enhances the Publicis marketing services group’s portfolio in the U.K., where it already owns prominent advertising agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett.

It is thought Publicis will not move to restructure Freud, which posted an operating profit of £4.6 million ($8.3 million) for the fiscal year ending June.

For the time being, it will be business as usual for Freud’s 106 staffers, but Thykier admits the Mortimer Street HQ might soon prove too small for the expanding org.

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