Matthew Freud seeks split from Publicis

PR veteran in talks with French advertising group about buying back 50.1% stake in Freud Communications

Matthew Freud is looking to buy back the stake in Freud Communications he sold to French advertising group Publicis five years ago.

Talks have taken place about unwinding the deal, but it is understood that there are significant differences in the valuation of the business.

Publicis acquired a 50.1% stake in Freud Communications, which has clients including Nike, Sony and the London 2012 Olympics, in 2005.

"Everyone agrees it is a good idea, I think it will end up being done although there is some way to go yet," said one source with knowledge of the talks. "Both sides have found it difficult at times and he has done this before, sell it high and try and buy it back cheap."

In 1994 Freud Communications was acquired by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. Following AMV's acquisition by US marketing group Omnicom, Freud and his partners bought the agency out in 2001. Freud also owns stakes in agencies M&C Saatchi and Engine Group.

Companies House results for Freud Communications show that the PR and marketing agency thrived despite the recession with revenue up 23% to £33m and pre-tax profits up 28% to £6.7m in 2009. The agency employs in excess of 170 staff.

In the five years that Freud Communications has been owned by Publicis the agency has opened an office in Los Angeles. However it has been suggested that Freud has become frustrated working within the structure of a larger mark group and that international expansion has not been facilitated as much as had been hoped.

"He is very highly regarded by Maurice Lévy [chief executive of Publicis] and both are very passionate individuals," said an insider. "However he is very much a law unto himself."

Publicis, owner of ad agency networks including Saatchi & Saatchi, recently reported a solid set of third quarter results with like-for-like revenues up 9.2% year-on-year.

Freud Communications and Publicis declined to comment.

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Mark Sweney

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