Barkley & Evergreen founder and chief executive officer Bill Fromm will transfer his stake in the $150 million agency to its employees beginning early next year.
On or about Jan. 1, the agency's 170 employees will purchase a 45% stake in the company from Fromm through an employee stock ownership plan. At the same time, the Kansas City, Mo.-based agency will change its name to Barkley, Evergreen & Partners. Fromm will sell the remaining 55% of the company to the employees within the following 5-7 years. Company officials would not disclose the agency's total valuation.
When the transaction is complete, Barkley, Evergreen & Partners could be the largest 100% employee-owned advertising agency in the U.S., said Scott Aylward, the agency's president of advertising. Colle & McVoy in Minneapolis, with 1996 billings of about $122 million, is totally employee-owned now.
Fromm said selling the agency he founded in 1964 to its employees is a way of cashing in on what he has built while rewarding those who helped him build it.
Agency officials said management of the company will not change. Day-to-day operations will be handled by the current management team that includes Aylward, executive creative director David Farmer, media services director Mike Young, public relations president Mike Swenson and chief financial officer Vicki Stuckwisch. While Fromm remains CEO, his main focus will be on new business development and managing some client relationships.
Agency officials said clients, which include Cellular One, Hallmark, Parts America and the Kansas Lottery, have reacted positively.
"I think clients like the idea of stability and continuity," Fromm said. "Plus, [the buyout] helps retention and attraction of employees."
Seeking to add a new client, the agency this week makes its final presentation to One Valley Bank in Charleston, W.Va. Trone Advertising, Greensboro, N.C., is the other finalist for the $2 million-plus account previously at Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Barkley & Evergreen has field offices in Atlanta, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mesquite, Texas.