CCG Considers Sale of Australian Assets

NEW YORK Cordiant Communications Group confirmed Tuesday that it has entered into preliminary discussions regarding the possible sale of a stake in certain Australian assets, including George Patterson Bates.

“Given the preliminary nature of these discussions, it is too early to state whether or not this will lead to a transaction,” a CCG statement said.

Once the jewel in CCG’s crown, George Patterson Bates has lost much of its luster over the past year and a half, relinquishing its long-held position as Australia’s No. 1 agency. It has suffered account losses, including airline Ansett, its largest client, which went bankrupt.

Last year, Hamish McLennan, heir to the CEO’s suite, bolted for Young & Rubicam, and Ian Elliot, Patterson’s CEO and CCG Australia’s chairman, resigned.

It long has been expected that the beleaguered holding company would be forced to consider selling off assets to offset revenue losses. Last year, CCG reported a first-half revenue decline of nearly 10 percent, even before the loss of Bates’ Hyundai and Wendy’s accounts affected the bottom line. It also had to renegotiate its banking covenants to reflect its earnings collapse in 2001.

CCG CEO David Hearn, who took over for Michael Bungey in January, was unavailable for comment. Earlier this week, CCG tapped former Reed Elsevier co-chairman Nigel Stapleton to replace Charlie Scott as chairman.