Andrew Whitehouse and Justin Gomes.
Andrew Whitehouse and Justin Gomes.

The Cape-headquartered FoxP2 agency has sold a majority stake to the Dentsu Aegis Network, part of the Japan-based Dentsu advertising and public relations giant. Both parties have opted not to disclose the purchase price, pending regulatory approval.

FoxP2 is one of the last remaining SA top-tier independents and in 12 years has developed a respected creative reputation. In the most recent Gunn Report on agency performance in terms of global awards success, it was ranked the second-most successful local agency. Among its clients are FNB, Stanlib, Namibia Breweries, Budget Insurance, Hyundai and Mugg & Bean.

After regulatory approval Dentsu Aegis will own just over 52% of the business. Its revenue last year was R61m and it employs 80 people in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The local Dentsu operation includes Carat, Isobar, Posterscope and Vizeum, and adding a high-end creative operation will make it a formidable player in the SA market.

And that, says FoxP2 CEO Charl Thom, is what attracted him and his three partners to the deal.

Grant Jacobsen
Grant Jacobsen

"We have been approached by most of the big networks over the years, but being the only creative agency in this group was appealing. We will have access to in-house services that have been lacking. This deal also gives us a springboard to working on more clients in [the rest of] Africa."

Thom says the Dentsu tie-up giv es FoxP2 an opportunity to flex its global muscles.

"We were told by Dentsu that our work can stand up against the best in any boardroom, and as a regional centre of excellence in the network we will now have a chance to work on global briefs."

Thom is well aware that, selling brings a danger of compromising the independence that made the agency successful in the first place. "It can be a huge problem, and we’ve seen this happen ... with other deals. However, [our] founding shareholders, Andrew Whitehouse, Grant Jacobsen and Justin Gomes, will remain active and invested in the business; we will still be able to determine which staff to hire and which clients to work with and there are no plans to move offices into the bigger operation."

Dentsu is buying a successful agency formula which will add value to its bigger operation in terms of the complementary skills FoxP2 offers. "In turn we now have access to world-class media thinking, incredible data analytics, global experiential best practice, and additional digital, content and social media skills. It brings together a complete and integrated mix of services and expertise, both locally and internationally, that will greatly enhance the FoxP2 offering to our clients while creating new growth opportunities for our team."

Thom also believes there is a solid fit between his agency and Dentsu. "We love it that they place huge importance on culture and team building. Every year they take the whole company to climb Mount Fuji as a symbol of their fighting spirit.

"They have been doing this since 1925."

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