By Judy Warner
BOSTON--A desire to cash out of Arnold Communications while the agency was still flying high led Ed Eskandarian some months ago to begin seriously considering his options.
Last week, industry sources said the chairman and chief executive officer of Arnold Com-munications signed a letter of intent to sell the agency to a nonadvertising-related company. Eskandarian would not comment when asked whether a letter of intent had been signed. 'I'm not going to discuss any of this,' he said.
Even so, the 60-year-old executive has been candid about his desire to retire from the business before turning 65 and to capitalize on his agency's financial success. Over the past eight years, he has built Arnold into the country's 21st-largest shop with billings of $650 million and revenues of $75 million.
Observers said Eskandarian has been driven in recent months to formulate an exit plan because the window of opportunity to do so is narrowing. The shop has lost several clients recently, including the Playskool division of Hasbro, which moved its estimated $35 million account to Grey Adver-tising in New York.
'Among the big agencies, there are really two big account categories: autos and food,' said Larry Weber, who recently sold his public relations company in Cambridge, Mass., to Interpublic's McCann-Erickson in New York and who has known Eskandarian for years. 'Arnold has both, so the question is, 'Where does Ed turn?' '
Selling out to a nonadvertising company would assure Eskandarian's involvement for a minimum of three years. That scenario would result in the least amount of change to the shop's culture in the near term, sources said.
--with Michael McCarthy
Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1997) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED