The two-year partnership between Andy Berlin and Pat Fallon may soon be over. The longtime friends, who joined forces in April 1995 when Fallon McElligott Berlin was born, are negotiating a divorce.
"I'm in discussions with Fallon McElligott to buy Fallon McElligott Berlin," was all agency chairman Berlin would reveal last week about a possible split. Fallon, chairman and principal of the Minneapolis-based shop, said that Berlin had expressed interest in securing control of New York-based operation and that "we are discussing it."
Berlin's contract is set to expire on Tuesday. He and a handful of senior executives are looking to buy the 51 percent of FMB owned by Fallon McElligott. The bulk of the remaining 49 percent is owned by Berlin and other FMB partners.
Sources said Berlin's desire to gain autonomy and run his shop in a more entrepreneurial fashion led to the buyout discussions. In addition, there has been some disagreement between the shops during recent pitches as to what role FMB should play.
FMB has about 50 employees and billings of $100 million from such marketers as Coca-Cola, Banker's Trust, Ralston Purina, Nikon and others. Pat Fallon, however, has in the past expressed frustration over the pace of growth at the New York shop.
Fallon has some 20 staff members in New York who work solely on the Minneapolis shop's accounts. Mark Goldstein, president of integrated marketing in Minneapolis, said Fallon will maintain a presence in New York despite the outcome of the negotiations.
Steve Sjoblad, president of Fallon McElligott Berlin and a board member of Fallon McElligott, is expected to return to the Minneapolis agency if the two shops separate.
Ewen Cameron, Izzy DeBellis and Jason Peterson would likely hold equity in the new venture, sources said. --with Trevor Jensen