WPP acquires Taxi to drive its international growth

At approximately 11:30 this morning, Paul Lavoie and Rob Guenette left a lawyer’s office in Toronto having just put the final touches on a deal that sees their agency, Taxi, fully acquired by multinational WPP. Lavoie, Taxi’s chairman and co-founder, and Guenette, its CEO, now report to WPP’s Y&R Brands and its CEO Peter Stringham, […]

At approximately 11:30 this morning, Paul Lavoie and Rob Guenette left a lawyer’s office in Toronto having just put the final touches on a deal that sees their agency, Taxi, fully acquired by multinational WPP.

Lavoie, Taxi’s chairman and co-founder, and Guenette, its CEO, now report to WPP’s Y&R Brands and its CEO Peter Stringham, a fellow Canadian.

The deal does not change Taxi’s existing executive structure–Guenette was emphatic that the recent departure of Yves Blain from Taxi Montreal was not related to the WPP deal–nor will any offices be closing. In fact, Lavoie said a new Taxi office will likely be opened in 2011.

Speaking with Marketing just ahead of the official announcement, Lavoie said he’d been looking at multinationals and other potential owners since early 2010 after years of turning down offers from those same parties, trying to keep Taxi “fiercely independent.”

What changed? Lavoie said it came down to resources to continue Taxi’s plans of global expansions.

“We wanted to continue our growth, because there’s a huge appetite for Taxi and people are asking us if they can open a Taxi in different parts of the world,” he said. “We don’t have the depth of resources to do that [independently].”

And given the competitive landscape of late, Lavoie said, Taxi has been working in partnerships with other agencies more frequently. Because Taxi did not want to dilute its core competencies (“We’re not opening a CRM shop”), he saw benefit in collaborating with Y&R Brands’ agencies.

Much of what convinced Taxi’s leaders that WPP was the right partner occurred in a private, 90-minute meeting in New York between Lavoie, Guenette and WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell.

“I wanted to look him in the eyes,” Lavoie said.

“We left knowing that this was the right situation for us,” said Guenette. “It was a very stimulating dialogue. [Sorrell] came up with ideas that supported the notion of what we’re getting in this partnership.”

“He helped make this deal happen. We walked out of that building knowing we were making the right decision,” Guenette said.

A release from WPP stated Taxi’s unaudited revenues for the 12 month-period that ended on June 30 were $53.7 million “with gross assets at the same date of approximately CAD $25.4 million.”

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