UK-based Ascential, parent company of the Cannes Festival of Creativity is acquiring advertising industry consultant MediaLink to help strengthen its footprint in the U.S.
Founded in 2003 by Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan, the privately-held MediaLink employs 120+ employees in the U.S. and offers advisory business services across the media, marketing, advertising, entertainment and technology industries.
The deal will accelerate Ascential’s business strategy, which is to own scaled, global, market-leading businesses and brands. In addition to the Cannes Festival its portfolio includes the payments and financial services concern Money 20/20, the UK’s largest trade show Spring Fair International and the education technology show Bett.
Kassan will continue to serve as Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, working closely with Ascential CEO Duncan Painter to integrate and accelerate the business, leveraging Ascential’s assets and infrastructure over the coming months. "I just signed a four-year contract. I joked to Painter that I don't expect to ever carry another business card that will say anything other than MediaLink," said Kassan.
MediaLink's Wenda Harris Millard will continue to serve as vice chairwoman, primarily overseeing the agency's talent practice that includes executive coaching. "No one is going anywhere. We don't expect any senior departures," says Kassan.
MediaLink will tap into Ascential's digital and information expertise, as well as utilize Ascential's deeper resources to expand its footprint beyond its four U.S. locations. To that end, Kassan is giving a speech in Hong Kong at the end of March and expects to open an office there at that time. MediaLink will also debut a London branch "extraordinarily quickly," says Kassan.
MediaLink will continue to build on its relationship with Cannes Lions and start new ones with other Ascential brands and services where appropriate, the firms indicated.
MediaLink has worked with Cannes Lions’ customers since 2011. In fact, it was a Cannes party in 2015 that helped spark this acquisition. During the
Joanna Coles-hosted event, guests assumed Kassan had already met Painter. "We were finally introduced after someone said to me that they thought I owned Cannes Lions [and not Painter]. We never had
met before. But we found common ground quickly."
MediaLink clients have applauded this deal, said Kassan, noting that one of his company's first clients, Unilever's Keith Weed, was "effusive" with his praise. "Judging by the calls and emails, people seem pretty pleased with the announcement."
The transaction is expected to be completed, subject to U.S. regulatory clearance, within the next month and, upon completion MediaLink will form part of Ascential’s Information Services division.
Ascential plc is currently listed on the London Stock Exchange under ASCL. Its stock price 3.66% to reach 300.50 during trading hours.
LionTree Advisors acted as financial advisors to MediaLink.