January 25, 2021

Ad agency M&C Saatchi snubs Murria’s bid for board seat

June 08, 2020

M&C Saatchi, the advertising agency responsible for some of the industry's most famous campaigns, has rebuffed an attempt by its biggest shareholder to gain a boardroom seat.

Sky News has learnt that M&C, which has been beset by accounting problems, recently turned down a request from Vin Murria, a successful technology entrepreneur, to be appointed as a non-executive director.

Ms Murria made an unexpected swoop last month to buy a stake of just over 13% in M&C, which has seen its share price crash by more than 80% over the last 12 months.

City sources said she had followed that purchase with a formal request for a board position, but that this had been denied for "corporate governance reasons" following consultation with its investment banking advisers.

It was unclear on Monday evening what Ms Murria's next move would be, and whether she would seek to increase her stake and ultimately launch a takeover bid for the group.

M&C was set up in 1995, within days of the brothers Maurice (now Lord) and Charles Saatchi leaving the other London-based agency which bore their surname.

They founded it alongside fellow ad executives including David Kershaw, who remains the company's chief executive.

M&C swiftly became one of Britain's most talked-about - and successful - creative agencies, winning numerous awards for clients including British Airways, the government and Gallaher, the tobacco manufacturer.

The agency floated on the London stock market in 2004, and expanded into a wider international network encompassing digital advertising, sports sponsorship and talent management.

In December, however, it was rocked by a boardroom exodus that saw Lord Saatchi and three other directors - including House of Cards creator, Lord Dobbs - step down as directors.

The turmoil came amid a dispute about M&C's leadership and prompted the appointment in January of the FTSE-100 boardroom veteran Gareth Davis as its deputy chairman.

Ms Murria was subsequently offered a role as a non-executive director, but was said by people close to M&C to have turned it down on the basis of her other commitments.

That offer came prior to her decision to acquire a big stake in M&C.

One insider said that after her stakebuilding was disclosed, she was asked to consider becoming a technology adviser to the board but insisted that she wanted to be made a plc director.

As the founder of Advanced Computer Software, which provided technology services to the NHS, Ms Murria made a fortune from the company's eventual sale to a private equity firm.

She now sits on several public company boards, and is said to believe that there is scope to revive M&C Saatchi's fortunes by marrying its creative reputation with the data analytics-driven disciplines which are helping to reshape the global advertising industry.

M&C has seen its value hit hard by the accounting problems, which have seen it take an £11.6m charge.

The company last updated the London market on its performance in April, when - like many other listed businesses - it said it was suspending its dividend.

Some of its founders remain substantial shareholders in M&C.

M&C and Ms Murria both declined to comment.

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