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Arnold Gets a Midwest Gateway

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Arnold's acquisition of Simmons Durham gives the young network a Midwest presence and a showpiece client, Brown-Forman's Jack Daniel's brand spirits.

The 32-person St. Louis shop, which claims about $70 million in billings and $9 million in revenue, has been rebranded with the Arnold name. Chairman and 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, Boston.

Brown-Forman business represents about 50 percent of the former Simmons Durham's overall billings. The client was consulted on the sale and gave its OK, Simmons said.

Other clients include Sears Portrait Studios and Charter Communications, a $4 million piece of business that is in the early stages of a review.

Simmons, 64, 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 since bought out Durham, who is retired, and owned the vast majority of the stock, with about eight other shareholders.

AdMedia Partners in New York brokered the deal. 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. "This is to bring Arnold capabilities to Midwestern advertisers."

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