Agency Readies for IPO; Bronner Founder Launches Startup
By David Gianatasio
BOSTON„Relationship marketer Bronnercom last week changed its name to Digitas and filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering.
The filing revealed that the Boston agency lost $43 million last year, and that founder Michael Bronner is launching a new venture called Lifetime Rewards.com. Bronner called the startup ˜an e-commerce company with a strong social component ... a chance for me to give something back." Details will be released in the coming weeks, he said.
The IPO [Adweek, Nov. 29] came a few weeks earlier than expected. According to the filing, the agency is looking to raise $200 million. The stock would be traded on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol DTAS. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is acting as lead manager for the offering.
The filing does not specify how many shares will be issued or quote a price per share. One source close to the situation said the IPO will likely be set at $20-25 per share for about six to eight million shares, but cautioned that such determinations will be made closer to the issue date.
Agency officials declined to discuss the pending IPO beyond information contained in the filing.
˜It›s absolutely the best time in history for an IPO," given Wall Street›s current love affair with tech-savvy firms, said Boston agency consultant Skip Pile.
The shares will be offered by the company and various private investors, including Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco equity firm that helped drive the 1998 IPO by Young & Rubicam.
Among the largest stockholders, Hellman & Friedman owns 18,449,578 shares (72 percent) of the common stock; Bronner owns 3,554,760 shares (14 percent) and CEO David Kenny owns 3,150,000 (11 percent).
The level of Hellman & Friedman›s investment was not previously known. Bronner will scale back his involvement, continuing with the firm as chairman emeritus and a director. He will hand over the chairmanship to Kenny.
Sources attributed last year›s shortfall to the cost of recent office openings and expansions in New York, San Francisco and London and to investments made on computer systems.
Formed nearly 20 years ago by Bronner, the agency employs more than 1,200 people in its two direct marketing units„BSH and
Sansome„and its Strategic Interactive Group subsidiary. Clients include Amazon.com and AT&T. K