In a $900 million agreement, Omnicom will acquire Flywheel, Ascential’s digital commerce division, making it the largest purchase in the history of the US agency group.
The CEO of Ascential, the Cannes Lions parent business based in the UK, Duncan Painter, will run Flywheel, which bills itself as the “largest addressable media buyer on Amazon,” after joining Omnicom.
Flywheel works with over 4,500 brands and employs about 2,000 people. The Flywheel Commerce Cloud platform is responsible for overseeing billions of product sales and billions of advertising spend every year on digital marketplaces like Alibaba, Walmart, and Amazon, as per the company’s statement.
According to Painter and John Wren, CEO of Omnicom, the acquisition will allow the agency group to integrate Flywheel’s retail media capabilities with Omnicom’s data unit Omni, and gain access to the rapidly expanding global digital commerce market—which is projected to be valued $7 trillion by 2025.
Ascential is selling its fashion trends division, WGSN, to private equity firm Apax Partners in a different transaction. The sale to Omnicom will come as a shock, given Ascential had stated in January 2023 that it intended to split off its digital commerce division and list it separately on the US stock market.
According to Ascential, Apax is paying an enterprise value of up to £700 million, while Omnicom is paying an enterprise value of £700 million ($900 million) to buy Flywheel. Ascential shareholders will get £1.2 billion ($1.46 billion) from the combined enterprise value of £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) and the company’s stock market value, which is comparable to 126% of the company’s stock market value prior to today’s double deal.
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