Lord Bell’s Chime Comunications marcoms company has endured a torrid few months with various shareholders, including 20 per cent holder WPP, opposing his lordship’s plan to buy out the Bell Pottinger PR business and rumblings of discontent over the company’s decision to buy Simon Gulliford’s marketing consultancy for the best part of £2m.
These matters may get an airing at the company’s AGM next week, which promises to be lively.
But there seems to be no holding back Chime’s ad agency VCCP which has just regained the £25m Muller account which briefly departed for TBWA and then just as rapidly exited when TBWA’s extravagant ‘wunderful stuff’ campaign featuring a battery of cartoon characters and lots of fancy animation apparently bombed.
It certainly dumped a load of high explosive on Muller UK HQ, leading to the sudden departures of marketing director Lee Rolston and chief executive Gharry Eccles.
VCCP was one of the fastest risers in the Campaign/Nielsen UK agency rankings in 2011 and can be expected to rise higher this year, not least because of its Easyjet win, variously estimated to be worth between £30-50m. This was a source of controversy when it emerged that Gulliford, a former marketing head at Barclays and Standard Life, had worked as a consultant on the pitch. Now he’s on the Chime payroll, of course.
Chime, which has had a good few years in financial terms, not least because of its decision to pay up to £30m for then youthful VCCP, has been rocked by the proposed buyout by Bell and partner Piers Pottinger of Bell Pottinger, its core PR business. The reasons for the proposed deal remain something of a mystery (as of this week anyway) but Bell Pottinger is in the process of losing its US Department of Defense department business, which will dent its performance this year.
Bell may argue that the group is now diversified enough to prosper without Bell Pottinger, indeed may perform better. It has recently purchased a gaggle of companies in sports marketing which, along with VCCP, give it a rather broader base.