JWT takeover of Unity collapses

WPP Group-owned J Walter Thompson’s proposed acquisition of “media neutral” planning agency Unity has collapsed. Unity has ruled out selling a stake to JWT, although it is in talks with other potential suitors.

Earlier this year, there was widespread speculation over a bid for Unity from WPP-owned JWT, a move that was seen as part of the recent industry-wide trend towards reintegrating media strategy with creative disciplines. It is believed that talks were abandoned when it became clear Unity would be completely subsumed within JWT and would lose its identity.

Unity was set up six years ago by former BMP DDB staffer Derek Morris, Zenith Media’s Andy Tilley and Ivan Pollard from Wieden & Kennedy. Morris left to take the new position of chief strategic officer at Publicis Groupe in April last year. A Unity spokesman says that JWT’s approach has brought attention from other potential agency partners and that discussions are under way.

Unity’s clients include Carphone Warehouse, Green & Black’s Chocolate and Kraft Foods. The company lost its Xfm radio station business last year.

JWT’s plans to buy a stake in Scottish advertising agency Leith Advertising Agency have also been put on ice. A spokesman for Leith says that discussions began when the agency was looking for network help while preparing for a pitch, but the approach was purely “opportunistic” and nothing came of it.


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