Situation

A large Midwest ad agency with a complex ownership structure—consisting of silent partners who were members of the founder’s family—and a number of minority shareholders who comprised the agency’s senior management team and ran the business, recognized that it needed to resolve key ownership issues and begin to plan for the future. Complicating matters was the fact that each stakeholder had his or her own personal career and financial goals, and differing opinions on the future direction of the business. They had been approached by a number of big agencies but were not sure if the acquisition route was in the best interest of all parties.

The TobinLeff Solution

The agency retained us to help the agency’s board of directors understand the long-term options available to them and give them the hard data they needed to make informed decisions about their future direction. After analyzing their numbers in depth, we developed a series of detailed financial models and related qualitative information illustrating the pros, cons, mechanics and financial workings of three different approaches to ownership transition—selling to a third-party, doing a management-based buy-out (MBO), or establishing an ESOP. We presented our findings and recommendations to the board. As a result, they now recognize they have a wider range of options than they originally thought, and have begun the process of narrowing these options and laying the groundwork for a succession plan to provide a smooth and orderly transition of ownership that best meets the goals of all the stakeholders.