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Ayer, Riney Talk Turkey: It's Not a Done Deal, But Merger Could be a Good Deal for Both Agencies

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NEW YORK - Ayer and Hal Riney & Partners are deep into discussions regarding a marriage between the two privately held agencies that would create new entity with billings of $1.8 billion and solve a number of issues ranging from succession at Riney to expansion for Ayer.
According to a source close to the talks, they have reached the due diligence stage, though the source said that a number of issues could still serve to unsettle the negotiations.
'It's serious but it's not done yet,' said one source. 'Plus, Ayer is still talking to at least two other agencies about an acquisition.'
Riney ceo Hal Riney, who worked at Ayer during his long career and is familiar with top Ayer management, confirmed the talks between the two agencies. 'We're talking to them. But we're certainly not close to anything,' said Riney. He added, 'I'm listening a little more to this one.'
In a statement, Ayer ceo Jerry Siano said that Ayer 'has spoken to a number of agencies and we continue to hold dialogue with firms that offer something that can complement the services that we offer to our clients. That's smart business.'
Sources said the deal being discussed involves Ayer acquiring Riney, with Hal Riney and Siano sharing co-ceo roles at a combined agency. The Hal Riney name will likely go on the door as well and some of the agency's executives will receive equity, sources said.
A merger would be relatively conflict free. Ayer has billings of about $1.5 billion and lists General Motors, AT&T, Procter & Gamble and DeBeers on its roster. Hal Riney's clients include General Motors' Saturn division, Alamo Rent A Car and Stroh Brewery. Following the sale of its New York office, Riney bills around $290 million.
The creation of an Ayer/Hal Riney & Partners makes sense for parties. Ayer would land the plum car account that it has been thirsting for and bolster its domestic operations with Riney's San Francisco and Chicago offices. Riney would gain access to Ayer's international network. It would also end speculation over who will succeed Riney himself when he retires from the business.
Likely to gain expanded roles in the combined agency would be Barry Krause, executive vp/managing director of Riney/Chicago, and Dannielle Colliver, president of Ayer's Detroit office, each considered key execs in their respective shops.
Whether and how the Chicago offices of Riney and Ayer would be merged is said to be under discussion. Riney/Chicago, which has the national Subway Sandwiches business among its accounts, is larger than Ayer/Chicago, which works for Leaf and Wolverine.
While the Riney deals motors along, sources said Humphreys is also in negotiations to reacquire Ayer's European network. Ayer Europe ceo Dick Hedger said, 'I would not say it's anathema to us - we are closely linked and already part of a worldwide organization,' said Hedger. 'But the initiative is coming out of New York.'
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)