The acquisition of Sapient is a bold move by M. Levy in his bid to move up the global rankings and increase Publicis Groupe’s proportion of digital revenues. With almost every other digital business of global scale already under group control, he had few other options. While the deal does much to improve Publicis’s US presence, it does not move the needle enough to push it into second place, past Omnicom. So is this deal a knee-jerk reaction to the failed merger earlier this year?
The price paid looks extraordinarily high, even assuming the $50m of synergy savings are achieved (which is something that rarely happens). Sapient certainly didn’t need to sell, so presumably the offer needed to be too good to turn down. The deal marks the end of SapientNitro’s fiercely independent positioning and may not be too popular among its management and staff. With a general shortage of quality digital talent on the market, this could be to the benefit of fast-growing independent agencies.
It remains to be seen whether the benefits of group ownership can outweigh the loss of independence.
Tristan Rice is Managing Partner at SI Partners, a global firm of management consultants and corporate finance advisors working primarily in the media, marketing and related technology sectors. SI Partners works with some of the industry’s best-known independents advising on sales & acquisitions, fundraising, restructuring and management buyouts.