Chime (UK)

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Chime now positions itself as "the challenger group for challenger clients". It was for many years best-known as the holding company for the UK's biggest public relations agency, Bell Pottinger, as well as other advertising and marketing subsidiaries. It was founded and led for almost two decades by Lord Tim Bell, the PR guru who moulded the media image of the Conservative Party for much of Margaret Thatcher's political reign during the 1980s. However, in summer 2012, Bell and longtime business partner Piers Pottinger stepped down from the group, buying out the Bell Pottinger agency and establishing it as a separate company under private ownership (until its eventual collapse five years later). The slimmed-down Chime Communications still has interests in PR, but is more specifically focused on advertising - through creative agency VCCP - and especially sports sponsorship. Formed from the acquisition and merger of several separate agencies including Fast Track and Sebastian Coe's Complete Leisure Group, CSM Sport & Entertainment is the local market leader in the UK, and a global force with 25 offices in 16 countries. Other Chime units include PR agency Good Relations, financial communications unit Teamspirit, public affairs consultancy Corporate Citizenship, and healthcare specialists Open Health and Succinct. The group was taken private towards the end of 2015 by private equity fund Providence, now its controlling shareholder, but WPP retained 25% of equity. It finally agreed to relinquish those shares in 2019, selling its holding to Providence at a price which valued the business at a little over £200m. Chime's revenues for 2017 were £547m, with operating income of £280m. Headline profit increased to £21m but a large increase in impairment and finance charges resulted in a sizeable stautory loss for the year. Long-serving CEO Chris Satterthwaite retired in 2018, and was replaced by co-CEOs Adrian Coleman (the C in VCCP) and CSM chief Matt Vandrau.

Capsule checked 1st July 2019

Who are the competitors of Chime? See ranking of Leading Global Marketing Groups

Who are the clients of Chime? See individual agency profiles

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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 1st Jul 2019: WPP has finally agreed to relinquish its long-held minority stake in Chime Group, parent of VCCP and CSM Sport & Entertainment. It has been an investor in the group for more than 20 years, having originally contributed some of the funding with which Chime acquired ad agency HHCL in 1997. For much of that period, a full buyout was expected at some point in the future, but WPP's interest slowly waned, and the larger group agreed to back Providence's buyout in 2015 rather than make a rival bid of its own. It will now sell its 25% holding to Providence for a stated £54m, valuing the whole group at £216m. WPP is expected to use those funds to pay down debt.

Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Nov 2017: Chris Satterthwaite is to step down as CEO of marketing group Chime after 15 years in that role. His role will be divided between VCCP's Adrian Coleman and Chime Sports Marketing's chief Matthew Vandrau, who become co-CEOs. Jo Parker, who has been leading the specialist healthcare division, was promoted to group COO, while VCCP CMO Stephanie Brimacombe becomes group managing director.

Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Sep 2016: In an unexpected development, PR guru Tim Bell - Lord Bell as he is now - has walked away from a business he founded for a second time. Having built up the Chime Communications marketing group around his original core PR agency Bell Pottinger, he bought out the latter agency in 2012 as private business. Now the 76-year-old industry veteran has departed Bell Pottinger as well in order to launch a new firm under the name Sans Frontieres to specialise in geo-political advisory services, the slightly controversial field for which he is best known. His departure could prompt Bell Pottinger's reacquisition by Chime, which had retained a minority shareholding in the business. Chime COO Mark Smith replaces Lord Bell as chairman.

Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Aug 2015: The board of UK marketing group Chime, best-known now as the parent of ad agency VCCP and a collection of sports marketing assets, has accepted an offer from Providence private equity for a buyout of the group for a little over £370m, a third higher than its current valuation. WPP, which already holds a 20% stake in the business, will retain that holding, and will assist with the further expansion of the group under Providence's ownership.

Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Jul 2015: British marketing group Chime, parent of advertising agency VCCP and a substantial sports marketing division as well as other assets, is considering a buyout offer from private equity firm Providence and WPP. The latter is already Chime's biggest shareholder with just over 20% of equity. Under the proposed arrangement, endorsed by WPP, Providence would buy out the remaining 80% to take the group private.


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