Kevin Morley quits the agency scene as his 100m Rover account moves to Lintas.

Lintas Worldwide has bought Kevin Morley Marketing (KMM) and the 100m pan-European Rover Cars account, in a deal thought to be worth more than 5m.

The deal, which will go through on July 1, will bring Kevin Morley’s controversial career as an agency boss to an end. It also involves the removal of KMM finance director Steven Smith from the agency scene.

But the deal leaves the KMM structure virtually untouched. The agency, to be known as Lintas i, will operate from the KMM offices at Connaught Place and KMM managing director Paul Jackson, with other senior managers, will continue in the same roles. He will work with former KMM planning director, Gerald Kreinczes, who becomes deputy managing director. Stuart Kendall will remain as creative director.

The trio have been involved in behind-the-scenes talks for at least three months.

A source at Rover Cars says that this continuity was crucial to its support of the deal. “Rover had to approve the new agency and once the Lintas name was mentioned there was a discussion,” he says. “We were not going to go with any agency and of course most of the same people are continuing to work on the business.”

It is understood Lintas has paid the fee to the Kevin Morley Group, which is owned by the Jersey-based Kevin Morley Holdings Ltd (MW April 28), in which Morley and Smith are believed to be the main shareholders.

Lintas takes the London agency, to be renamed Lintas i (for interactive), and its agencies in Amsterdam and Dusseldorf, with total billings estimated at 70m. KMM is understood to control just over 100m of billings worldwide through its own agencies and affiliates, while KMM UK holds 42m of billings.

Jackson will report directly to Terry Rosenquist chairman and chief executive of Lintas Europe/Africa/Middle East.

In an exclusive interview with Marketing Week, Rosenquist says: “It will be business as usual for the existing management team. Our client list includes clients that have been with us for 20, 30 and 40 years,” he says, “We only enter things if we think it will be a long-term relationship.”

This was echoed by the Rover source, who says the remaining 18 months of the KMM/Rover contract will be fulfilled and holds out the hope of an extension.

Rosenquist claims there is no intention to move any of the Rover business into other Lintas operations. “All media-buying arrangements will remain the same,” he says. “Initiative (owned by Lintas) will continue to buy across Europe, and Zenith will handle UK media buying.”

He says that Lintas i will join CM Lintas and SP Lintas in the UK to make combined UK billings of 160m.

SP Lintas has a reputation for being an integrated agency. Rosenquist says that there is no intention of changing this because of the purchase of Lintas i.

Observers say the deal will help to transform Lintas’ image as an agency fixated on fmcg. It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of SP Lintas’ billings comes from Unilever companies.

SP Lintas has found it difficult to attract non-fmcg clients, such as consumer durables, retail, or financial services. It narrowly failed to win Burger King at the beginning of the year and Abbey National last year.

Lintas i will have to resign 3m worth of Jeyes business (MW April 7) because of conflict with Unilever in the other Lintas agencies. “Jeyes is an unfortunate casualty of the acquisition,” he says.

Brushing aside the problems KMM had suffered because of the anti-agency stance of its founder Kevin Morley, Jackson says: “Many of us in this agency have worked in large advertising agencies over a large number of years.

“We have been operating in isolation from the rest of the industry for the past three years. This deal brings us back into the fold of our own industry,” he says.

Krienczes adds: “If we had gone alone we would have remained a small shop with international aspirations.”

The crunch for Lintas will come when the Rover account is up for grabs in 18 months time. The lease of Connaught Place, where KMM is based, is understood to be up for renewal at the same time and according to sources close to the agency, it is understood that if Rover is not retained, Lintas i will be integrated into the rest of the network.

However, Rosenquist says Lintas has learned the lessons from the integration of Still Price and Lintas UK and does not intend to combine operations.

What Lintas has done is essentially buy a client and its in-house ad department. If the Rover account moves – there will be a host of agencies from Bates Worldwide to M&C Saatchi keen to get their hands on it – then it could prove a shortlived experiment.

But if Lintas can hang on the gamble will be worth the risk.

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