TN’s Mason Is Hungry Agency Chairman Vows to Make Acquisition

By Scott Hume

CHICAGO–True North Communications chairman Bruce Mason makes no bones about it: He wants to make an acquisition and wants it to be a significant one.

‘We’ve done some deals, but we haven’t done a big one,’ said Mason. ‘With our settlement (with France’s Publicis), the impediments are gone and I think it’s safe to say we are looking to make an acquisition. If a year from now we haven’t done that, you can put my feet to the fire.’

Mason would not comment on any possible acquisition targets. True North has been identified in published reports as a potential participant in discussions with more than one agency in a second ‘big bang’ merger along the lines of the one that produced Omnicom. Mason, however, would not confirm or deny if his company is either the instigator or a participant in any such talks.

Mason’s ability to maneuver should receive a boost with some proposed changes in the TN board. Two of the directors who are said to have sought Mason’s ouster last year–Craig Wiggins, who was vice chairman of True North, and Jack Balousek, chief executive officer of TN Technologies–are gone.

Publicis chairman Maurice Levy will be replaced by Lazard Freres managing director Ali Wambold, who will serve as Publicis’ proxy.

Nominated for election to the board are retired Kraft General Foods executive Richard Mayer and Sara Lee Corp.’s Michael Murphy.

Additionally, Newton Minow, TN counsel; William Schreyer, chairman emeritus of Merrill Lynch; and Louis Scott, the retired chairman of Foote, Cone & Belding’s executive committee, are also set to step down in May.

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