WPP offloads Nielsen Media Research stake after TNS buy

WPP Group is giving up its 50% stake in TV measurement company AGB Nielsen Media Research in an attempt to side-step competition regulators following its acquisition of research company Taylor Nelson Sofres.

It is swapping the stake with joint venture partner Nielsen in return for a number of global media assets, which will be housed in its Kantar research division. WPP had either to dispose of its AGB Nielsen stake or TNS’s European television audience measurement business to avoid anti-competition rules.

AGB Nielsen managing director Justin Sampson is expected to move with the business. Chairman Mandy Pooler will remain at Kantar in the business development director role she also covers.

AGB Nielsen is incumbent on UK TV measurement for the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), but it lost the £10m contract post 2010 to TNS, as exclusively revealed by Marketing Week (November 15, 2007).

Pooler took on the role of chairman following AGB’s failure to secure the BARB contract, although a source close to the company says it was for one day a week, in order to give the business “stability”.

WPP’s £1.1bn hostile bid for TNS was led by chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, after TNS unveiled plans for a nil-premium merger with German rival GfK in April this year. WPP’s bid forced GfK to amend its offer, and in August confirmed it had dropped its bid.

WPP’s acquisition completed at the end of last month, when TNS chief executive David Lowden also left the company (MW October 31). His departure was part of wider management changes within the market research company.

The asset swap is expected to happen by the end of the year.

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