It's official - at last! On Thursday Interpublic Group announced the betrothal of its sibling agency networks Draft and Foote Cone & Belding, calling to a halt months of industry speculation.

Heading the new entity, branded Draft FCB Group, is Howard Draft, ceo of the eponymous Chicago-headquartered marketing services network. His opposite number at FCB, Steve Blamer (50), who joined FCB less than a year ago, is now thumbing magazines in the IPG departure lounge, the pain of his passing anesthetized by a payoff estimated at around $7 million (€5.5m; £3.7m).

The merger is the first known instance of a so-called 'below-the-line' outfit gaining management ascendancy over a 'traditional' agency network of FCB's size and reputation.

IPG believes, however, that the duo will complement each other, melding a strong direct-marketing offering with creative media advertising skills. Redundancies are seen as inevitable over the coming months.

FCB currently boasts 190 offices worldwide with a combined staff of 6,000. Draft, by far the smaller entity has just forty offices and 3,000 employees. FCB worldwide creative director Jonathan Harries will assume creative control of the new entity.

IPG chairman/ceo Michael Roth officiated at the combined wedding and baptism: "We carefully considered the potential of a combination and believe that the resulting organization will be highly responsive to the new realities that are transforming the consumer and media landscape," he intoned.

"There is still a great deal of work to be done by the full leadership teams of both companies to develop a comprehensive plan and definitive timeline for integration."

Full implementation of the merger is expected to be complete within six to twelve months.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff