WPP ups the stakes in contest for Australia’s STW group

Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP may be an eyeing a full bid for Australia’s STW Communications.

STW Communications is Australia’s biggest agency group. STW stands for Singleton Thompson (after J. Walter Thompson) WPP, reflecting the co-ownership of WPP companies Ogilvy, JWT and media agency Mindshare in Oz. WPP has just increased its stake in quoted STW to 24.65 per cent.

As well as its share of the WPP agencies, STW owns Ikon Communications, Tongue, The Brand Agency and a new outfit Sibling which handles Westfield, STW’s biggest account. It owns about 50 companies. STW has taken a pummelling on the Australian stock exchange recently with its shares dropping from A$1.21 last year to 70 cents currently. Its current capitalisation is A$317m; £150m or so, a snip for WPP.

Partnering with Sorrell and WPP isn’t always an easy ride. Arun Nanda, boss of Rediffusion Y&R in India, has been sparring with Sorrell for years. Lord Bell (Tim Bell as was) and Sorrell weren’t always the best of old pals while he was running Chime (WPP has big stakes in both).

STW was founded by John ‘Singo’ Singleton, one of Australia’s more colourful characters. ‘Singo’ sold his last shares in STW for about A$50m when he quit in 2007, aiming some parting shots at Sorrell and accusing WPP of “missing a big opportunity” in Australia. He began his career in JWT’s post room in 1958.

Sorrell will be relieved that he won’t have to go head to head with Singo this time round. Earlier this year Singleton was fined A$550 after a row with an old pal, media executive Jack Cowin, turned nasty. Here’s ‘Singo’ (and Cowin) after hostilities had concluded.

One Comment

  1. Up to a point, Lord Copper …

    The STW company name precedes its involvement with WPP. Singo’s partner Russel Tate is the eponymous ‘T’ and would be quite surprised to hear you’ve changed his name to Thompson.

    The ‘W’ escapes me, but it certainly isn’t ‘WPP’.

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