About once a month, I read about one PR firm after another buying itself back from an acquirer. The latest is Brodeur buying itself back from Omnicom. A few weeks back, MWW bought itself back from IPG.
What’s behind all of this? I know my friend Rick Gould makes a number of compelling arguments about selling one’s firm, but, in order to convince me, I’d need to meet an agency principal who’s happy they sold several years later.
I know that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but its hard to envision retaining your culture and approach if someone else is controlling the purse strings.
I’m aware of firms such as MDC Partners that take a slight majority position and let the agency principals “keep doing what they’re doing.” Count me among the skeptical.
One of the things that motivated me to start my own firm was being able to get out from under people who told me what I could and couldn’t do. If you sell your firm (or even a minority stake), you’re undoubtedly giving (at least some of) that up.
I try “never to say never,” but as long as I still see a long flight plan ahead and can continue to use ongoing cash flow and, if necessary, a line of credit to fund and grow my business, flying solo is the way to go — at least for me.