US Outdoor Tycoon Buys Ailing UK Firm, Fires Key Honchos

16 March 2006

Maiden Outdoor, the ailing UK billboard and transport advertising firm, has been acquired by Titan Worldwide, a New York-headquartered outdoor advertising specialist whose name implies its ambitions rather than its achievements.

With just one overseas subsidiary in Ireland, Titan Worldwide is now a step nearer to living-up to its moniker with the bargain basement purchase of Maiden for a mere £10.6 million ($18.53m; €15.41m) in shares - plus a £39m debt burden.

Titan wasted no time in clearing the decks at London-headquartered Maiden, which until this week claimed to be the UK's largest independent media owner. Within hours of the announcement, financial director Ian Powell and corporate development director Francis Goodwin were asked to clear their desks.

This leaves chief executive Ron Zeghibe, whose future is reportedly in the balance, looking over his shoulder; while managing director David Pugh remains in situ "for the time being".

Thanks to the pressure applied by Maiden's banks - which had threatened to pull the plug in the absence of a done deal by the end of March - Titan finds itself in adland's equivalent of Macy's bargain basement

For not a penny in cash, Titan boss William Apfelbaum has acquired a diverse outdoor media portfolio, including large-format roadside panels, advertising rights at over five hundred UK rail stations, plus an array of supermarket and shopping mall six-sheet sites.

But the UK has always been a lucky rabbit's-paw for US national Apfelbaum.

As the boss of TDI in 1994, he won the immensely lucrative London subway system advertising contract before selling his business three years later to Infinity Broadcasting of the US, itself swallowed by Viacom in 1999.

The seeds of the Maiden takeover were sown last year when Titan formed an informal alliance with Maiden to repitch for the London subway contract - now at £75m-plus annually the world's largest transport advertising deal. A decision was to have been announced last November, but is now unlikely before the end of this month.

Meantime, WAMN understands that Maiden/TW is not one of the shortlisted candidates, the race having been narrowed to incumbent Viacom and J C Decaux of France.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff