Matthew Freud buys back PR firm

PR guru regains control of Freud Communications from Publicis Groupe in deal thought to value business at up to £100m

Matthew Freud has regained control of his eponymous PR and marketing agency from French company Publicis Groupe in a deal that is thought to value the business at up to £100m.

Freud, who is married to Elisabeth Murdoch – who recently sold her business Shine Television to her father's News Corporation – has bought back Publicis's majority stake in a deal thought to value Freud Communications somewhere between £75m and £100m.

He has been attempting to engineer a deal with Publicis, which took a 50.1% stake in Freud Communications almost six years ago, since late last year, but talks broke down over the valuation of the business.

"We are grateful for the support of Publicis Groupe as a shareholder since 2005 and look forward to our future as an independently owned company," said the Freud Communications chief executive, Nicola Howson.

Publicis, which has advertising clients including Cadbury and Asda, said it will continue to provide PR services for its clients in the UK and globally through its own communications network MSLGroup.

"I enjoyed working with Matthew and I have a lot of respect for his skills," said the MSLGroup chief executive, Olivier Fleurot.

When in 2005 Freud sold a controlling stake in the business, which has worked for clients including Nike, Pepsi, Sony and the London 2012 Olympics, the deal valued the company at €70m to €80m (£61m to £69m).

Companies House figures for 2009, the most recently available, show that Freud Communications' reported revenues were up 23% to £33m, pre-tax profits increased 28% to £6.7m and operating profits increased by about 30% to £6.7m. At the time, the business was running on an impressive 30% margin.

No figures are publicly available for 2010, but profits are thought to be in the region of £8m given the improvement in the market compared with 2009.

This is the second time that Freud has sold and bought back his company: 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.

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Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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Industry: public relations
Turnover: £33m
Staff: 172
Worth: £190m (joint, with wife Elisabeth Murdoch)
2009 ranking: 74

19, Jul, 2010 @4:54 AM