Johannes Leonardo buys big portion of itself back from WPP

The agency has significantly increased its own stake in the company.

Johannes Leonardo has bought a "significant" portion of itself back from WPP, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

When the shop opened its door 11 years ago, WPP provided initial funding for the agency through a 49 percent shareholding. Johannes Leonardo has owned the remaining 51 percent until its recent deal, which substantially increased its stake in itself, Campaign has learned.

Representatives from Johannes Leonardo and WPP declined to comment.

The buyback signals Johannes Leonardo’s confidence in doubling down on creativity and talent. With more control of its ownership, the agency can use more independent thinking - both operationally and creatively - while still having the option to tap into WPP’s network of resources.

The New York based agency of about 100 staffers works on the likes of Adidas Originals, MassMutual, EA and Amazon Fire TV.

Over the past year, agencies and holding companies have been in flux as they look to navigate the increasingly complex marketing landscape. Large holding companies have been consolidating and merging entities as well as selling off assets; many independents have been eagerly seeking VC or PE backing, while others look to remain fiercely independent; and several industry veterans have even launched their own small agency networks and coalitions.

Johannes Leonardo’s decision could be one more sign of the changing times - or it could be the start of a trend in which additional holding company-owned agencies look to have more control.

The news comes as WPP continues to reshape its offering with mass consolidation including the Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R mergers last year.

In October, the holding company announced the integration of its health networks into major agency brands in the U.S. The Sudler network combines with VMLY&R, creating VMLY&R Health. Ogilvy CommonHealth will join Ogilvy, forming Ogilvy Health, and ghg will join Wunderman as part of Wunderman Health.

Mark Read told Campaign at the end of 2018 that there are no more immediate plans for consolidation within WPP.

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