South Korean agency Cheil Worldwide is acquiring a stake in Iris which could ultimately allow the group to acquire the agency outright.
Described by joint chief executive Ian Millner (pictured) as “the most exciting chapter for Iris”, the deal sees Cheil take a “significant initial investment” in the business, although the exact details have not been released.
Iris said that it would remain a separate entity to Cheil but that the deal would give it access to greater resources. The acquisition means that Cheil will buy out US publisher Meredith, which bought a minority stake in the agency in 2011.
Cheil Worldwide was set up as a subsidiary of Samsung in 1973 and has 48 offices and eight affiliate offices. It launched in the UK nearly a decade ago.
Cheil president and chief executive Daiki Lim said: “Our goal was to find the right partner who could match our determination and drive. We’ve watched with awe how Iris has built its global business and we are delighted to have this opportunity to work with their brand.”
Millner added: “We’re about to enter the most exciting chapter for Iris. This partnership won’t change who we are or what we do as a creative innovation network – but will extend our global reach and capabilities, and enable our clients and people to benefit from the huge opportunity presented by a true ‘east meets west’ and ‘west meets east’ network.”
Results International and Linklaters advised Cheil on the deal, while Osborne Clarke and BDO advised Iris.
Iris shareholders will no doubt be hoping the agency’s bosses spend this investment more wisely than the £10m interest free loan they secured from HBOS in 2009. By Millner’s own admission, it sparked a spending spree that nearly brought the agency to its knees.
He recently said: “Ironically, this was the beginning of our problems. We’d think of somewhere exotic, then we’d send out a team with our logo. We had money and we were spending it in a hurry.”
Then HBOS was taken over by Lloyds Bank, which changed the terms of the deal and forced Iris to axe layers of management, close offices and rein in spending.
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