Arnold’s Global State of Mind

The newly renamed Arnold Worldwide Partners will soon establish bridgeheads in New York, Australia and Asia as agency executives map out a global strategy.

Arnold is already holding talks with a short list of acquisition targets at home and abroad, including smaller independent firms and agencies that are part of large networks, sources said.

“We have specific targets we’re talking to,” said Ed Eskandarian, chief executive of both the global Arnold organization and its U.S. operations, known simply as Arnold Worldwide. “We’re very close in Australia, close in China,” Eskandarian said.

Overseas, making buys that will enable large clients such as Alcatel, EMC Corp. and compete in new markets is the key, Arnold managers said.

Arnold is also anxious to establish “a major presence in New York before too long,” said Fran Kelly, who last week was named president and chief operating officer of the Boston-based network’s new U.S. arm. Kelly had been chief marketing officer at Arnold Communications, which along with parent Snyder Communications was recently acquired by Havas Advertising, Paris. In a related move, Arnold creative head Ron Lawner was promoted to chairman and chief creative officer.

Agency brass agreed that making an acquisition in New York is somewhat more difficult than buying a shop overseas, as few noteworthy independents remain.

In light of that climate, adding an underperforming shop, perhaps one that is now part of a larger network, is being considered. “We’re not afraid of [buying] agencies that are not generating the revenues they think they should,” Eskandarian said.

“The pickings are slim, and [holding companies] IPG, Omnicom and WPP have their eyes open in New York,” noted Bill Montbleau, an industry consultant in Burlington, Mass. “[Arnold] has some competition.”

Arnold last year came close to buying Cliff Freeman and Partners, New York. Eskandarian called the independent shop “a gem.” Asked if he’s resumed talks with that agency, Eskandarian said, “I’m waiting for Cliff to call me.” Cliff Freeman could not be reached by press time.