Outdoor specialist Portland has been hit by fraud thought to have cost the company’s contractors up to $2m (1.2m) in the Czech Republic.
The poster buyer, part-owned by WPP Group, opened an office in Prague called Portland Praha. But the operation suddenly collapsed owing money to poster contractors, including the Czech division of Avenir.
Portland management in the UK is pressing for criminal charges against figures in the Czech advertising industry, including two former managers.
The parent company hired a fraud detection agency called Network International and is working with the British Embassy and the Czech police to resolve the situation.
Portland does not accept liability for the money owing to the contractors. Dennis Sullivan, Portland chairman and chief executive, says: “This is not going to affect our investment plans elsewhere in the world.” The company is about to launch in India, with plans to open six offices.
WPP is expected to increase its stake in Portland from 33 per cent to 61 per cent in the next four to six weeks. The marketing services group will buy Dentsu’s 28 per cent share, as revealed in Marketing Week (March 5).
Portland is entering a joint venture with advertising agency Hindustan Thompson Associates in India, with offices due to open in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore, Madras and Hyderabad.