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Grey, United London Mull Union

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NEW YORK Grey's London office is preparing for a possible absorption of WPP Group sibling United London, executives at the companies confirmed, though they would provide no details.

"The whole concept of United London has never been right," said one source.

"It was a bad idea to buy HHCL after it had collapsed," the source added, referring to WPP's purchase of HHCL, which it then put into the Red Cell network. (Red Cell last year shed dozens of its offices.)

"Trying to recuperate HHCL without any of its principals...was a bad idea," the source said. The original agency name was Howell, Henry, Chaldecott, Lury.

United COO Laurence Mellman would not comment on the possibility of dissolving United London beyond the following statement: "There have been discussions with Grey and nothing has been decided."

Sources said Grey would hire an undetermined number of its sibling shop's 40 staffers if the deal goes through; some clients would also make the transition. United London's largest client, BSkyB, departed three months ago.

WPP relaunched the pared down Red Cell network in 2005 as the Voluntary United Group of Creative Agencies. In January 2006, HHCL Red Cell became United London.

Meanwhile, Grey in London is still searching for a new CEO as Tamara Ingram last month assumed global responsibility on the network's Procter & Gamble business