Snyder Communications (US)

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How about this for over-achievement? Before he was even 35, Dan Snyder built a global marketing group from scratch, then sold it for $2bn in order to fulfill a childhood dream to buy the Washington Redskins football team. For a while his upstart marketing services group Snyder Communications came close to challenging the likes of Omnicom and IPG. But over-diversification caused the group's share price to plummet, and it was snapped up in 2000 by French predator Havas.

The Washington Redskins is an entirely separate business, still chaired and owned by Dan Snyder. It is one of America's most celebrated and successful NFL football teams. The management board includes sister Michelle Snyder, as well as their mother Arlette, also both shareholders in the business.

Snyder Communications was founded in 1988 by Daniel Snyder and his sister Michelle, later COO of the group, under the name Collegiate Marketing & Communications. Dan Snyder was then aged just 22. Initially the company sold space on advertising wallboards in doctors' surgeries, and then expanded to operate sales teams marketing drugs and related products direct to physicians on behalf of Bristol Myers-Squibb and other pharmaceutical groups. The growing company's first acquisitions were pharmaceutical contract sales businesses MMD and PharmFlex (in the US), Halliday Jones Sales and Rapid Deployment Group in the UK. Later, in 1997, the group added database businesses American List Corporation and the UK's Bounty Group (best known for the sample pack distributed to new mothers in hospital after they give birth). A major leap forward came with the addition of leading direct marketing agencies Blau Marketing in the US and Brann (and its subsidiary Brann Interactive) in the UK at the close of 1997. As a result, the group as a whole became a very significant force in sampling and direct marketing aimed at a student and family audience.

The acquisition of US top 20 agency Arnold Communications in March 1998 for $120m was a major coup. The agency was previously one of the US's largest independents, with billings of over $750m in 1997, and its portfolio included new media subsidiary Circle Interactive. Following the acquisition, Arnold announced plans to develop an international network. The subsequent purchase of the UK's Partners BDDH, to fit within the Arnold group, was the first part of this process. BDDH was acquired for almost $28m in Snyder stock, and became the European outpost for the growing Arnold network. Shortly afterwards, the group acquired PromoTech, another US-based healthcare marketing agency.

Meanwhile, Dan Snyder took time off from the hectic world of marketing to indulge a personal ambition. In 1999, he acquired the Washington Redskins, arguably one of the US's finest American football teams, for $850m. Although it was a personal deal - Snyder headed up a private consortium - the move grabbed headlines all over the country for the marketing group run by the Redskins' new owner.

At the same time, Snyder announced a major restructuring of the group designed to simplify the complex set of acquisitions within it. The original healthcare business was spun off as Ventiv Health, with part of the shareholding floated publicly as a tracking stock. The remainder of Snyder Communications was restructured to hold just two networks, Arnold Worldwide and Brann. Although it seemed the perfect time for the restructure, with Snyder's share price at an all-time high, the financial markets reacted badly to the $30m restructuring bill and the share price plummeted, although the businesses continued to perform strongly.

After reaching an all-time low in October, Snyder's share price had recovered some ground by December. However, that month the group appointed bankers BT Alex Brown to explore the possibilities of a trade sale. Snyder said that his decision had been prompted by an unsolicited offer from one of the big three marketing groups, but the upstart group's critics claimed the real reason was that he had simply lost interest and wanted to cash in. After several months of negotiation, Snyder agreed to sell his business for $2.1bn to French group Havas advertising.

Following completion of the deal Snyder focused his attentions on the Redskins, turning the team into the biggest commercial franchise in US professional football. Snyder moved several senior Snyder Communications managers across to the Redskins, spent lavishly to upgrade the stadium and parking facilities, hired top coach Marty Schottheimer on a $10m four-year contract, and rewarded his players with record salaries and bonuses. Although the Redskins didn't perform on the field as well as might have been hoped (sensationally, Scottheimer was fired in 2001), Snyder's marketing skills helped the team more than double its revenues during the course of the 2000s, including a twenty-five-fold rise in sponsorship revenues to more than $50m.

In 2004, Snyder began accumulating a separate minority stake in amusement park operator Six Flags through private investment group Red Zone Capital Management. Having built a stake of almost 12% by mid 2005, he started a campaign to take control of the business. Supported by a majority of shareholders, Snyder was named non-executive chairman of Six Flags at the end of 2005. However he was unable to restore the struggling business to financial health and was later ousted by other investors.

Following acquisition by Havas, the various marketing subsidiaries of Snyder Communications were integrated into that group's Euro RSCG and other networks. The only part of the group not acquired by Havas was Ventiv Health, then a publicly quoted group supplying specialised sales, marketing, data research and compliance solutions to pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the US and Europe. In 2005, Ventiv moved back into the mainstream marketing environment with the acquisition of inChord Communications, the marketing services group based around healthcare advertising agency GSW Worldwide. The merged business adopted the new name inVentiv Health. Dan Snyder no longer has any connection with that company.

Last full revision 30th October 2017

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