After years of acquisition talks with major holding companies AKQA, one of the last major independent digital agencies, has finally given in and agreed to sell a majority stake of its business to WPP. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but WPP has previously said it valued the company at around $540 million.
AKQA said its 1,160-strong staff will operate as a standalone unit and brand within the WPP family, and continue to be led by CEO Ajaz Ahmed and Chairman Tom Bedecarré. It currently maintains multiple offices in the U.S. and Europe, as well as one in Shanghai, but the WPP CEO signalled that the agency’s footprint will continue to expand post-acquisition, stating intent to broaden both WPP and AKQA “geographically and functionally.”
Commenting on the sale in a release, Bedecarré expressed a desire for his agency to maintain a sense of independence, despite the fact it’ll soon be another arm of the world’s largest communications group. “We are delighted to preserve AKQA’s independent culture and maintain focus on serving our clients. Today we are celebrating joining WPP and tomorrow our teams will be back to business as usual.”
Bedecarré will also become president of WPP Ventures, a new Silicon Valley-based company which will explore new digital investment opportunities for the wider WPP group.
The pair chose to announce the deal midway through this week’s Cannes Lions festival, at which AKQA has a significant presence, and a giant inflatable installation outside the event’s hub at the Palais Des Festivals.