The Japanese marketing giant Dentsu is understood to have struck a £533m (€600m) deal to buy Tag, the British-headquartered global content production group, in one of the largest UK ad deals of the last 15 years.

The move by Dentsu – which became a global force in advertising with its £3.2bn takeover of the UK media group Aegis in 2012, the largest-ever deal for a British-based ad group – marks its latest push to challenge rivals including WPP, IPG and Omnicom in the US and France’s Publicis Groupe.

Tag employs about 2,700 staff and creates marketing content for clients including New Balance, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Heineken and Unilever. The business has been owned by Advent International since 2017, when the private equity group acquired its British-based marketing services parent company, Williams Lea.

Williams Lea, which acquired Tag in 2011, was previously owned by Deutsche Post DHL, which bought into the business in 2006 but decided to sell it to Advent International 11 years later to focus on its core logistics and delivery businesses.

Tag is run by global chief executive David Kassler, a former top executive at the music group EMI who was brought in by Advent International after the acquisition of Williams Lea in 2017.

In 2019, Tag hired Andria Vidler, the former chief executive of EMI UK and the publisher and events group Centaur who sits on the board of the embattled gambling business 888, to run its business across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

It is understood that Advent International has been exploring a sale of Tag, and the separate Williams Lea business, for at least 18 months, but the pandemic has protracted the process of securing a deal.

Advent International and Dentsu declined to comment on the deal, which values Tag at as much as €600m, which sources say could yet fall through but is expected to be signed this week.

It is the largest deal for a British-based advertising business in a number of years – WPP spun off Kantar, which operates in the market research sector, for $4bn including debt – and Dentsu’s biggest since it paid more than $1bn for the US-based digital agency Merkle in 2016.

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The acquisition of Tag by Dentsu, the world’s fifth-biggest advertising group by revenues, takes it into direct competition with businesses such as Hogarth, which is owned by WPP.


By admin