Future predictions hinge on renewed Fitch interest

The Fitch saga looks set to run for a while yet, with many questions to be answered. With French conglomerate Publicis and WPP Group reported to be sniffing around, will the beleaguered Cordiant Communications Group sell its design interests on to another

The Fitch saga looks set to run for a while yet, with many questions to be answered.

With French conglomerate Publicis and WPP Group reported to be sniffing around, will the beleaguered Cordiant Communications Group sell its design interests on to another big global group? If so, will it be part of a bigger sale as CCG focuses on its core advertising business or will it be hived off to make a quick buck to satisfy the shareholders?

Will there be a management buy-out at Fitch London? This seems less likely. With former Fitch London chief executive Jane Simmonds out since January and former PSD managing director Mark Southwood having now gone, the management line up of the newly merged Fitch team is still bedding in, with newcomers Tim Greenhalgh and Lucy Unger finding their feet alongside Keith Bamber and Nigel Forsyth.

It is only a few months since Fitch London’s three constituent UK consultancies came together after a swift courtship and there are no doubt differences still to be ironed out – remember how long it took for the former Newell and Sorrell to merge culturally with Interbrand after a near shotgun wedding in 1997, if, indeed, it ever did. More plausible, though unsubstantiated, are reports that Bamber and Forsyth will disentangle themselves personally from Fitch once their earn-out period is completed, having sold Bamber Forsyth to CCG in 2000.

Will erstwhile Fitch Worldwide chief executive Paul Stead step back and take the prize, as sources suggest he is planning (see News, page 3)? He has in the past expressed some interest in the group that employed him in the 1980s before he set up PSD Associates, but will CCG entertain overtures from someone who until last week was a senior employee (DW 1 May)?

Is this an opportunity for Rodney Fitch to reclaim the group that bears his name, having been ousted so unceremoniously by a former management. Then Martin Beck and Jean-Francois Benz were at the helm and had yet to strike the deal with Lighthouse Global Network that was the prelude to the CCG takeover in 2000.

At time of going to press, all these things were possible. Fitch is, after all, one of the best names in the business, carrying with it reputation and, by all accounts, a relatively sound financial base. But if a week is a long time in politics, it is a lifetime in design and anything can have happened in between.

Perhaps the interest starting to be shown in Fitch will impress CCG into reaffirming its commitment in the group, replacing Stead as linkman into the wider global network and appointing a chief executive to run the London show. Anything is possible.

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