Durham ad agency McKinney acquired by Korean firm

dbracken@newsobserver.comJuly 31, 2012 

McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar


Durham advertising agency McKinney has been acquired by South Korea-based Cheil Worldwide, a marketing and communications company with offices in 28 countries.

The deal, announced Tuesday, ends McKinney’s four-year run as an independent agency. Terms weren’t disclosed.

McKinney will maintain its name, leadership team and headquarters in Durham, said Brad Brinegar, McKinney’s CEO. He said the deal won’t result in any job losses and will better position the agency to win U.S.-based multi-national clients who require an agency with a global presence.

Although McKinney has had suitors in the past, Brinegar said joining Cheil was attractive because the South Korean agency operates as a network of offices as opposed to a holding company with multiple agencies that frequently compete against each other.

“Because it is not an economic buy so much as a bet on the future for the Cheil Worldwide network, they have every interest in growing the agency,” he said.

McKinney has been independent since 2008 when the agency’s management team, led by Brinegar, acquired 100 percent ownership stake from the global advertising holding company Havas of Paris.

Brinegar said Cheil first approached McKinney about joining the network about six months ago. Cheil has been seeking a way to become more competitive in the American market.

McKinney is now part of Cheil Americas, a regional network of agency partners in North and South America led by CEO Buz Sawyer. Others in the network include Cheil USA, Cheil Canada, Cheil Mexico, Cheil Central America, Cheil Brazil and The Barbarian Group.

In a statement, Sawyer said McKinney was an ideal partner to help Cheil reinvent itself in the United States.

McKinney, by far the Triangle’s largest ad agency, has about 200 workers in Durham. The company had revenue of $37.4 million last year, down 6 percent from 2010.

McKinney’s revenue suffered last year after one of the agency’s big clients, telecommunications company Qwest, was acquired and McKinney and real estate firm Coldwell Banker mutually agreed to end their relationship.

McKinney’s client list includes Nationwide Insurance, CenturyLink, Sherwin-Williams, Lenovo, Mizuno USA, Gold’s Gym, Meijer, Ruby Tuesday, Big Boss Brewing and Urban Ministries of Durham.

Brinegar said joining Cheil will also give McKinney the financial resources to build up its digital advertising expertise.

“They’re putting capital behind us to help us speed up the development of areas like social marketing and search where we would have to go more slowly on our own,” he said.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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