IngramEnterprise is the current business vehicle of Chris Ingram, the man widely credited with inventing the concept of the modern media agency in the UK. In the late 1970s he was the founder and chief executive of what became media network CIA, and later the marketing services group Tempus. That business was acquired by WPP in 2001, and CIA was absorbed into MEC and then what is now Wavemaker. Ingram spent a couple of years out of the limelight before launching a new marketing services vehicle in 2003, following the acquisition of planning agency Unity. However The Ingram Partnership failed to achieve the same success of Ingram's previous venture, and it eventually closed down in 2007. Its successor IngramEnterprise is a private equity incubator fund.
Chris Ingram is generally credited with being one of the main architects of the media independent concept in the UK, whereby clients' media planning and buying requirements were split out from the main creative account and reassigned to a separate and independent entity to avoid potential bias or conflicts of interest. Having left school at 16, Chris Ingram joined Collett Dickenson Pearce in 1960 as a messenger boy. He worked his way up the ranks in CDP's media department and later at Kingsley Manton & Palmer (KMP). In 1972, KMP pooled its own media department with that of several other agencies to create the pioneering shop The Media Department. Mid-decade, economic recession persuaded several of these agencies to take back control of media buying, so Ingram left in 1976 to set up his own business under the name Chris Ingram Associates, later abbreviated to CIA.
In 1982, Chris Ingram Associates launched an international division, initially as a joint venture with another media independent, Michael Jarvis & Partners, subsequently as a wholly owned business under the name CIA International. Gradually, the idea caught on. Following Ingram's example, British agency WCRS bought up The Media Department in 1988 and established it as the UK arm of French independent media shop Carat. The same year, Saatchi & Saatchi spun off the media departments of its Saatchi and Bates agencies to form Zenith Media. In 1989, taking advantage of the rapid growth in the sector, CIA went public.
In 1991, the group began to create splinter subsidiaries in the UK, taking a stake in newly formed Media Solutions with UK agency GGT, and launching a further spin-off in 20/20 Media, a joint venture with Bozell Worldwide. With the UK becoming increasingly saturated, Ingram turned his attention firmly to the international market in 1993, acquiring Italian outfit Medianetwork and taking a small stake in German media agency Mediahaus Strobel. This agency gradually expanded its operations to cover Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and other central European territories by 1997. That year CIA Group increased its stake to 45%. The company also reported sparking financial results, with 1997 pre-tax profits up 27% to £9.5m on turnover up 25% at £968m.
In 1998 the group underwent a complete rebranding process. Strobel rebranded as MQI Mediahaus, operating as a separate network from the CIA International brand, while the CIA holding company adopted the new name of Tempus. The group also dipped its toe into the interactive sector, taking investments in new media agencies including IQ Germany and Muchomedia in Spain (both later sold), as well as the UK's Good Technology.
However, Tempus remained very much a European company in what was fast becoming a global business. In 1998, more than 90% of Tempus business came from Europe. At the same time, the established agency networks were also rapidly spinning off their media departments as virtual independents. During 1998, it emerged that the group was in discussion with US marketing group True North, which had acquired Bozell, Tempus's partner in 20/20 Media (by now renamed BJK&E Media). A closer partnership would have given Tempus access to True North's TN Media, while the American company would get a much needed European media outfit. However, in the end, no deal was done.
Instead, Ingram was reportedly furious when Marco Benatti, then chairman of CIA Medianetwork's Italian joint venture, sold his 18% shareholding in Tempus to WPP for £10.2m. (Benatti later left the group for WPP, but his partnership with Martin Sorrell was later to prove even more stormy - see WPP profile for details). Still in need of a US office, Tempus bought up American media independent VSM in 1998, as well as France's Le Lab. However, the UK office of CIA had a disastrous summer, losing £85m of BT business, as well as important accounts from LVMH and Somerfield. To strengthen the UK business Tempus bought out its partner in Media Solutions and merged it into the main CIA network.
In early 1999, the group established new business Outrider to manage its new media investments. There were also acquisition discussions with Young & Rubicam. Both companies denied there was a firm offer on the table, but Tempus took a 49% stake in Y&R's Media Edge operation in Germany. Later that year, Tempus acquired Added Value, a marketing consultancy formed by two former Unilever employees, for around £35m. Group sales for that year were £1.4bn, with pretax profits of £15.6m.
In 2000, the group bought the 55% of MQI Mediahaus it didn't already own, and merged the business into CIA to form a single network. The group also added to its international portfolio with two acquisitions. US marketing consultancy Fusion 5 became the North American counterpart to Added Value, while Japanese market research company Interactive Creative Marketing (ICM), joined existing Tempus subsidiary OHAL to provide consumer insight to group clients. Later that year, the group acquired international brand consultancy group KSDP for £21m, and merged it with Tempus subsidiary Brown ID to form BrownKSDP, with offices across Europe, Africa and Australia. The group announced pre-tax profits of £19.9m for 2000, while turnover jumped 45% to over £2bn, bolstered by the group's new purchases, and by a strong performance from CIA.
In a surprising move into the centre ground of the advertising industry, Tempus also announced it would relaunch itself as an "alternative" lead agency in 2001, with new division Tempus Partners established to generate creative work for group clients. Yet this strategy never materialised. Instead, a few months later, Ingram agreed a deal to sell his business to Havas Advertising for around £425m ($603m). Under this plan, Tempus would merge with Havas Advertising's existing Media Planning Group operation, greatly strengthening both networks.
This deal was not welcomed by WPP's Martin Sorrell, whose stake in Tempus had by now risen steadily to 22%. He issued a higher offer for Tempus, sparking off a takeover battle. It was left to shareholders to resolve the issue, but Chris Ingram and other senior executives went on the record to oppose WPP's offer, pledging their own combined 26.5% stake to Havas. The matter was complicated considerably in early September 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US created a sudden change in general business confidence. Sorrell took advantage of plunging stock prices to increase his stake in Tempus to 26%. But just a few days later, Havas effectively withdrew its offer for Tempus, claiming it could not justify the price it had offered in the changed market.
Tempus managers, now fearing they could be left without any deal at all, dropped their previous objections and began pressuring WPP to proceed. At the same time the agency reported a sharp fall in profits for the first half of 2001. As a result it was WPP which began trying to buy further time, despite the fact that virtually all Tempus shareholders had accepted their offer. In October, Martin Sorrell sought permission from UK takeover regulators to revoke his earlier offer on the basis of a "material adverse change" in trading conditions, but the request was refused. The deal went ahead.
Prior to its purchase by WPP, Tempus was structured as five main businesses, with 97 offices in 29 countries. Media network CIA Worldwide had 66 offices in 26 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. It was a major player in Scandinavia, Italy and other main European markets, but had limited presence in Asia, and a weak profile in the US (where it was ranked #16, the smallest of the international media networks). In 2000 it was ranked by Advertising Age as the #13 media specialist worldwide with billings of $5.5bn.
Following completion of the WPP takeover in early 2002, plans were announced to merge CIA into Media Edge, the network acquired as part of Y&R. Tempus's other diversified design, research, consultancy and marketing services agencies were reallocated within WPP's other divisions. Founder Chris Ingram, who owned around 16% of Tempus at the time of the takeover, agreed to stay on until June 2002. He announced that he would quit the industry at that point, and used some of the £64m he made from the takeover to buy Woking FC, the football team he had supported since his youth. He later also announced the creation of venture capital fund Genesis to invest in media, entertainment and technology services.
In 2003, Ingram returned to the media industry with the purchase of media neutral planning agency Unity, which was absorbed into newly launched media consultancy The Ingram Partnership. This was set up to offer strategic communications, that off-shoot of media planning which aims to provide clients with impartial brand and media strategy advice. Such agencies operate independently from any existing creative or media buying network so their advice can be seen as entirely neutral. As such Ingram occupied similar territory to other British agencies such as Naked and Michaelides & Bednash. Following launch in 2003, the company absorbed a series of small subsidiary agencies including communications planning specialist Unity, marketing consultancy Butterfield 8 and brand consultancy The Gathering.
In 2005, Ingram opened its first office in the US, following the purchase of New York agency Consumer Dynamics. A year later it established a presence in Asia with the acquisition of The Brand Company in Hong Kong. In 2006, Simon Toaldo was recruited from Euro RSCG to be Ingram's first managing director. However the group struggled to build up a strong enough portfolio of blue-chip clients, despite the reputations of Ingram and his partners, as well as some smart strategic thinking. In July 2007, Ingram said he was considering the sale of the business, or merger with a larger partner. No buyer was found and the London office of Ingram closed in October 2007. Managing partners Leslie Butterfield (ex BDDH) and Andy Tilley announced plans to launch their own start-ups. Butterfield took several members of the Ingram team to a new venture, ButterfieldPartners. That was later shuttered and he joined design agency Interbrand. Tilley adopted the old Unity brandname for his consultancy.
In 2008, Ingram's private equity fund, Genesis Investments, was absorbed into a new consultancy and investment entity under the name IngramEnterprise. It has various investments, mainly in the digital and media sector. Ingram's two most precious investments have been his beloved local football club Woking FC, which he saved from bankruptcy in 2002 and owned for ten years, and The Ingram Collection of modern art, also exhibited in Woking.
Last full revision 23rd August 2016
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