Red Cell Picks Up HHCL Stake

NEW YORK WPP’s Red Cell agency network has acquired a 49 percent stake in London-based agency HHCL, owned by Chime, and HHCL will join the Red Cell network in Europe, the agencies said. Chime, a communications holding company, retains 51 percent of the agency.

The two companies had been in talks for several months [Adweek, July 8].

The agency’s management will report to Red Cell CEO Lee Daley who also becomes chairman of HHCL/Red Cell. He’ll work with HHCL founder Steve Henry and creative director/managing director Nick Howarth. HHCL’s other managing partners are Minnie Moll, Richard Huntington, Al Young, Sid McGrath and Mark Coldham.

HHCL is the latest addition to the Red Cell network, which, in Europe includes, Les Ouvriers du Paradis in Paris, and HeadlightVision in London. Red Cell also has offices in Brussels, Milan, Turin, Zurich, Madrid with affiliates in Lisbon and Athens. In the U.S., Red Cell includes Berlin Cameron in New York and Cole & Weber in Seattle.

In a statement, Daley said, “Having a strong base in London was always key to the re-design of our network. A company like HHCL does not come along very often and when we first began talks, it was clear that the agency mirrored our values as a network. HHCL is a fabulous brand that has been built around outstanding creative and strategic ideas. Furthermore, it has all the right ingredients for growth, both within the U.K. market and internationally at strong blue chip clients, senior and experienced management and high-quality next generation talent.”

HHCL’s clients includes Mars Inc., Unilever foods division, Autoglass, Molson, Britvic beverage company, FIFA soccer league, and Yorkshire Water utility in northern England. Red Cell London’s clients include Alfa Romeo, Wales Tourist Board, Singapore Airlines, and Ermengildo Zegna apparels.

The combined agencies will have a staff of 100 with U.K. billings of 165 million pounds (about $120 million U.S.).

HHCL executives said the deal offers the chance of international growth. “We have long been thinking of the best way to establish HHCL internationally,” Howarth said. “However, the more traditional agency networks have held no appeal for us because of their tendency to dilute diversity rather than celebrate it. Red Cell will help us to accelerate internationally, whilst bonding us with a broader range of resources and experience from around the world. We can’t wait!”

Chima chairman Lord Bell said, “This deal fulfils the strategy we set out at the beginning of 2002. We believe that Chime will benefit by making HHCL part of the new Red Cell worldwide network. International clients need inspired strategic thinking and impactful creative work. These are the lynch pins of HHCL’s reputation. We are very excited by the potential outcome of this.”