Erwin-Penland Sold to Hill, Holliday

BOSTON Joe Erwin has sold Erwin-Penland to Interpublic Group’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, the agencies said on Wednesday.

The two agencies had been in talks two years and the acquisition had been expected [Adweek Online, March 3, 2003]. Terms were not disclosed.

The 125-person shop in Greenville, S.C., will keep its name for now and its current management team, according to agency president Joe Erwin, who bought the agency in 1986 with wife and business partner Gretchen, who directs media. A third partner, Allen Bosworth, is senior vice president of client services. All three will remain in their current roles.

Both shops have considerable regional Verizon Wireless business. The wireless provider accounts for some 35 percent of the agency’s $120 million billings.

E-P also handles Michelin North America , Advance America and Wachovia.

Sources said the on-again, off-again talks reignited late last year because Hill, Holliday senior management wanted to quickly add heft due to volatility on its client list. The major concern, sources said, is FleetBoston Financial, which spends about $60 million annually on ads, and is in the process of being purchased by Bank of America, a client of IPG’s Deutsch in New York. FleetBoston officials have declined to comment on a possible account consolidation, and Hill, Holliday officials did not return calls.

“We find ourselves in a unique point in time in terms of our ability to compete with other agencies in the Southeast. The additional resources and reputation of Hill, Holliday will help us do that more effectively,” said a representative for Erwin-Penland.

Hill, Holliday has had mixed results with agency acquisitions. Its 2000 purchase of Goldberg Moser O’Neill in San Francisco petered out last year, with most clients jumping ship, though Hill, Holliday does maintain a small media-buying outpost in that market.

The agency’s purchase of New York-based Frankfurt Balkind in 2002 has proven to be more successful, adding design and corporate identity to the agency’s suite of offerings.

Boston-based Hill, Holliday’s other clients include CVS, Dunkin’ Donuts, John Hancock Financial Services and Marshalls.