Los Angeles-based independent agency Phenomenon is selling a majority stake to LA-based Berggruen Holdings (BH) and San Francisco-based Sleeping Bear Capital.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
BH — the investment vehicle of The Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust — has made well over 100 investments, although primarily rooted in alternative energy and real estate.
Private-equity firm Sleeping Bear Capital was founded by entrepreneur Ranvir Gujral and invests in business unit spin-outs and venture-backed technology, ecommerce and business-services companies.
This investment is designed to help the agency build up additional services such as social marketing, artificial intelligence-based marketing tools and strategic media planning. There will be no major operational changes under the deal.
Phenomenon wasn't seeking outside partners, but a few things have recently become clear, explains Krishnan Menon, CEO-founder, Phenomenon. "We were a small fish always playing in big ponds," he says. In the past 12 months, the agency landed in finalist pitches against Droga5, Anomaly, Weiden + Kennedy, IDEO, BBDO, and other much larger firms with deeper pockets.
Menon realized "sustaining that level of participation would require growth capital."
This partnership came about "organically," says Menon. He says the introduction happened once Sleeping Bear's Gujral was introduced to the agency's corporate counsel, after expressing interest in the agency space. "The philosophies on both sides seemed to really match —- about the industry, growth and future possibilities," says Menon.