by Herman Manson (@marklives) Quirk will retain its operational independence and current management, says agency founder and CEO, Rob Stokes, even after the conclusion of a deal with WPP, which will see the global communications group take a controlling interest in the digital agency. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval.

Quirk & WPPStokes says WPP approached his team in December of last year. Quirk had been courted multiple times over the previous ten months to sell. While he had intended for the group to be ‘saleable’ by 2015/16, the market was right right now, says Stokes, leading to the decision to pursue the WPP deal.

Actively acquiring agencies

Both WPP and Publicis have been actively acquiring agency properties in the country over the past few months, with more deals in the pipeline. WPP recently bought into Cerebra and Native; Publicis Groupe recently bought out OwenKessel and merged it with Leo Burnett, as well as digital agency Lighthouse Digital, which has become part of Publicis division Starcom MediaVest Group. In December 2013, Publicis also bought out digital agency Synergize to sit within Saatchi & Saatchi South Africa.

Stokes would not reveal any financial details of the deal or even what percentage WPP has taken in the business. According to WPP, Quirk’s unaudited consolidated revenues for the year ending 28 February 2014 were approximately R140 million, with gross assets at the same date of approximately R68 million.

Stokes says the deal gives Quirk access to global clients, as well as WPP IP and systems; Quirk’s creative team will also gain access to global creative forums. The agency will work closely with WPP agency networks accross the continent.

No management changes foreseen

Stokes will be reporting into a local board consisting of WPP members and minority shareholders. No management changes are foreseen.

Only the agency forms part of the deal — the rest of the group has been restructured and non-agency assets have been moved into start-up incubator 42Engines. These include advertising school Red & Yellow, Brandseye, HiringBounty and IdeasBounty.

According to Stokes, the 20% profit share for Quirk employees will stay in place and a bonus of R20 000 will be paid out to each of them at the conclusion of the deal.

Quirk will look at making acquisitions in several African markets.

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