Arnold Buys Simmons Durham

Arnold’s acquisition last week of Simmons Durham gives the young network a beachhead in the Midwest with a showpiece client: Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s brand spirits.

The 32-person shop, which claims about $70 million in billings and $9 million in revenue, has been rebranded with the Arnold name. Chairman/executive creative director Ted Simmons and president Les Diveley remain in charge. Terms were not disclosed, though sources said a shop of Simmons Durham’s size would likely sell for $7-10 million.

“Simmons Durham’s experience in the spirits category and its Midwest location will open up a variety of new business opportunities for Arnold,” said Ed Eskandarian, CEO and chairman of Arnold.

The Brown-Forman business represents about 50 percent of the former Simmons Durham’s overall billings. The agency for six years has also handled broadband-service provider Charter Communications, which is currently in play; it is unclear if the shop will defend the estimated $4 million account.

Simmons will take the title of CEO of Arnold, St. Louis, and says he plans to stay on about three more years.

Simmons founded the agency in 1985 with Bill Durham, both veterans of the former Gardner Advertising in St. Louis. Simmons has since bought out Durham, who is retired, and owned the vast majority of the stock with about eight other shareholders.

The agency had been on the market for about a year and a half and had talked to five or six multinational organizations, Simmons said.

Simmons stressed the “philosophical fit” between the two agencies, saying Arnold’s brand essence process is “very similar to our process,” which is called “meaningful reality.” A key goal now is “to attract other brands such as Jack Daniel’s into the fold,” Simmons said.

A unit of Paris-based holding company Havas, Arnold’s other recent buys include McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., and Brandhouse, which has offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.