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Informix Scouting the Bay Area

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Quiet Search Kicks Off to Find an Agency With Global Muscle
SAN FRANCISCO--Silicon Valley stalwart Informix Corp. has kicked off a quiet search for an agency with global capabilities to help reposition it in the database market, according to sources at Bay Area shops.
Billings for the software vendor are estimated at $40-50 million. The client is said to be primarily interested in San Francisco agencies. It is not known whether incumbent Young & Rubicam, San Francisco, is participating.
Informix, Menlo Park, Calif., markets database management systems and interconnectivity products that allow companies to manage their databases across global computer networks. The company has struggled recently to compete with such rivals as Oracle (which holds 40 percent of the data storehouses market) and IBM, and sources said it is looking to launch a counterattack.
Informix would not confirm or deny that an agency search has started, but sources said the company has begun at least informal talks with shops. It wants one that can "bring them to the next level," said one source.
An unnamed consultant is said to be aiding with the search.
Informix "have solved a lot of their financial problems and have several products that are good for the market," said one source, adding that the company "wants a global agency that can position the brand to compete with Oracle and Microsoft. ... They are on the rebuild. ... It's a perfect time for a good shop. If they are going to succeed, they are going to have to go global."
FCB Worldwide in San Francisco was one shop said to have been asked to pitch, but declined to participate. FCB recently took on the $300 million Compaq account.
Among the Bay Area shops that are part of global networks, several have clients that may conflict with the Informix business. McCann-Erickson/A&L handles Microsoft; Grey Advertising handles Oracle; and GMO/Hill Holliday handles Sybase.
For the first quarter ending March 31, Informix reported revenue of about $251 million, compared to $227 million for the comparable period in 1999, a 10.3 percent increase.
Informix's star has been tarnished recently by troubles relating to financial reporting. Last January, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the firm of inflating revenues between 1994 and 1997 by $295 million and earnings by $244 million. Two years prior, Informix endured a similar public scolding that forced it to restate more than $300 million in earnings.