WPP sells stake in Chime

Advertising and marketing giant WPP has confirmed the sale of its 25% stake in sports marketing agency Chime for an initial £54.4 million.

WPP said it had sold the holding to Chime’s majority shareholder – US investment firm Providence, which already owns 75% – and added that there was potential for further amounts to be paid based on the future value of Chime.

It follows reports at the weekend over the sale.

Lord Bell
Lord Bell

Chime was founded in 1989 by Lord (Tim) Bell, who was Margaret Thatcher’s most famous spin doctor and co-founded disgraced PR firm Bell Pottinger, which went into administration in 2017.

Chime was bought out by WPP and Providence in 2015 for £374 million and owns sports and entertainment agency CSM, which is chaired by Lord (Sebastian) Coe.

The sale is the latest move by WPP to slim down its operations and help cut its debt pile under Mark Read, who took over from Sir Martin Sorrell – the group’s founder who quit abruptly last year amid allegations of misconduct.

WPP is in the process of axing 3,500 jobs worldwide under plans to slash costs by £275 million a year as it looks to turn around its fortunes.

It also wants to shed under-performing parts of the business and make itself leaner, with more than 30 divisions sold since Sir Martin left, bringing in around £850 million.

Last month, it announced a deal to offload a majority stake in post-production business The Farm, which worked on hits including ITV’s Downton Abbey and the BBC’s Baptiste series.

Next on Mr Read’s list is data and market research division Kantar, which could fetch around £3.5 billion and is responsible for 15% of all WPP sales.

Ian Whittaker, an analyst at Liberum, raised the possibility of a break-up of WPP and said “associates and property sales could raise a further £500 million”, not including the potential Kantar sale.