HHCL in Half-Price Sale to WPP’s Red Cell

12 August 2002

In an apparent U-turn from last Thursday’s assurance to HHCL staff, Chime Communications’ chairman Lord Tim Bell has reportedly agreed to sell the London agency to WPP Group for integration into the latter’s Red Cell network.

As revealed in Friday’s WAMN, an email from the noble Lord to HHCL staffers read: “We are not in talks to sell HHCL to WPP or anybody else for that matter. HHCL is not for sale. What we are doing is discussing and are near to agreeing a deal to enable HHCL to offer its considerable advertising skills on an international basis to take advantage of the continuing consolidation of major brands into international networks.”

Bell, whose fame [and enoblement] rest on his eighties’ role as PR guru to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has a way with words.

According to the report in national daily The Independent, the deal will see the sale of HHCL – at one time the hottest creative shop in London Town – for less than half the £24 million paid by Chime five years ago plus a minority stake in Red Cell.

Which is where it all gets complicated, as WPP already owns a 20% stake in Chime, acquired when the latter bought HHCL – resulting in a numbers game probably understood only by former accountant Sir Martin Sorrell.

Meantime, gossip around London adland’s parish pump, enthusiastically famed by the parish magazines, has it that Lord Bell is in intimate chats with fellow PR guru [and darling of the gossip columns] Matthew Freud – although who is likely to acquire who is anyone’s guess.

Data sourced from: Independent.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff