Engine puts itself up for sale (again) – will the ghost of WCRS finally find a home?

Engine owner Lake Capital is reportedly trying to sell the mini-marcoms business, including Engine Creative, formerly WCRS, for £100m through Lazards – a quarter of its original mooted sale price a few years ago.

Lake Capital, a big Silicon Valley operator, tried to make Engine work with content business Trailer Park but that, rather like Droga5’s one-time merger with Hollywood agent William Morris Endeavour, doesn’t seem to have produced the synergies expected. Droga5 is now owned by Accenture Interactive, under whom it is prospering.

Engine says: “We are exploring future options for Engine UK’s growth and strategic direction; these could include a formal sale process or a third-party investment.” Management buyouts, assisted by private equity, might be the solution.

The original Wight Collins Rutherford Scott, one of the leading agencies of the 1980s, has sailed under a bewildering number of flags in its long life. It went public along with many of its rivals, brandished its new chequebook to some effect by acquiring, among others, Carat, the French Gross brothers’ media-broking giant. WCRS produced memorable campaigns for likes of BMW and Carling Black Label.

The whole shebang them became Aegis which was subsequently bought by Dentsu although the creative agency went its own way for a while. Dentsu would have done well to have bought that too. WCRS founder Peter Scott then pulled together Engine but, without a media player, it failed too gain the hoped-for traction.

The ghost of WCRS within Engine can still produce the goods when required – let’s hope it finally finds a good home.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.