Advertising Giant Publicis Groupe Acquires Rosetta For $575 Million+

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Publicis Groupe, the French advertising colossus, announced today that it will acquire Princeton-based interactive marketing agency Rosetta for $525 million in cash, plus later milestone payments.

As one of the “big four” advertising holding companies, Publicis competes with Interpublic, Omnicom, and WPP, which each generated at least $6 billion in revenue in 2010 and employ at least 40K people. With sizable competition and online advertising growth picking up by 15 percent in 2010, the French company is looking to increase its presence in digital interactive advertising. The company’s proposed goal is to increase digital revenue from 28 percent of total revenue to 35 percent by 2013.

After snatching up Razorfish in 2009, Publicis continues with smart forays into digital advertising with its acquisition of Rosetta, which was called the second largest digital advertising agency in the U.S. in 2010 by Advertising Age — and is expected to generate $250 million in annual revenue in 2011. Rosetta’s clients run from healthcare to tech, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, RIM, and T-Mobile, among others.

The agency will remain a standalone brand under the continuing leadership of Rosetta’s founder & CEO Chris Kuenne. Kuenne will be reporting to Jean-Yves Naouri, Publicis’ Chief Operating Officer.

The transaction is expected to close in the second or third quarter, and manager-shareholders could receive a potential deferred payment in 2014 based on the agency’s performance between 2011 and 2013, Publicis said.