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McKinney Buys Itself Back From Havas

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BOSTON McKinney today said it has bought itself back from Paris-based conglomerate Havas, with managers at the shop in Durham, N.C., acquiring 100 percent of the agency, which employs about 180 staffers.

The shop has suffered some key losses in recent years, notably assignments from Audi and Sony. McKinney's estimated revenue in 2007 was $25 million, down almost 35 percent from the previous 12-month period, based mainly on those two client departures.

Staffing was about 225 a year ago, down from a high of roughly 240.

Brad Brinegar, agency chairman and CEO, said the buyback has been a long-term goal and was in the works for several years.

Independence allows local managers "to keep the fruits of our labors" and grow the shop unfettered by possible client conflicts looming within other units of Havas, Brinegar said. It also frees McKinney to team up with specialty shops on as-needed basis to pursue new business, he said.

Fernando Rodes Vila, Havas CEO, said in a statement: "We are increasing our focus on our core global brands, Euro RSCG, Havas Media and Arnold, so this is a good time to act on the interest Brad and his team have long expressed to own the agency. This sale is beneficial for both parties."

Havas agreed to acquire the shop, then called McKinney & Silver, from ill-fated digital communications firm marchFirst in April 2001. At the time -- the tail end of a consolidation spree in the ad industry -- sources placed the sale price in the $20-25 million range.

Financial terms of the buyback were not disclosed.

Brinegar said all clients have been supportive and no accounts are expected to leave. McKinney operated as a autonomous agency within Havas, and did not share key assignments with other holding-company units. Notable accounts include Travelocity (for which McKinney has fashioned the well-known "Roaming gnome" campaign), Brown-Forman's Southern Comfort, Caldwell-Banker, Nasdaq and Virgin Mobile, among others.

Roughly 35 percent of the McKinney's revenue derives from its digital operations. Brinegar said that bodes well for the future given the increasingly interactive nature of the media landscape, but he would prefer a 50/50 split in the next few years if possible.

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