WPP Group, concerned at the see-through creative credentials of the London office of its Red Cell global agency network, is in advanced talks with Chime Communications to acquire its HHCL & Partners unit.

A creative supernova in the early to mid 90s, HHCL’s aurora has waned somewhat of late but the shop still retains its innovational reputation and would add much-needed muscle to the UK end of Red Cell.

HHCL is not the first to be wooed for this purpose, with WPP whispering sweet nothings earlier this year into the ear of ailing London independent Leagas Delaney [WAMN: 25-Feb-02]. Having shored-up the New York arm of Red Cell last December by buying creative hotshop Berlin Cameron & Partners, Sir Martin Sorrell is said to have promised BC&P’s founders that an agency of comparable standing would be recruited in the UK.

Meantime, none of the parties will confirm the status of negotiations. It is not “a done deal”, insists Red Cell chief executive Lee Daley, adding: “It is possible that it will become a deal although we are examining parallel paths.” A HHCL cryptologist shed even less light on the matter: “Talks are still going on; but because a deal isn’t imminent it’s not a certainty.”

• Stop Press (08.10 BST 09-Aug-02)
WAMN has learned that Chime chairman Lord Tim Bell has sent the following email to all HHCL staff:
“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.”

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff