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Legendary Canadian ad agency Cossette up for sale

A view of Cossette Inc. offices in Quebec City, Nov. 10, 2009.


Five years after a nasty fight for control of legendary Canadian ad agency Cossette, the private equity firm that helped to take it private is putting the assets up for sale.

Connecticut-based Mill Road Capital LP, which owns a majority stake in Cossette's parent company Vision7, has confirmed that it "has decided to explore strategic alternatives for the company's North American assets."

In addition to Cossette, the company owns ad planning and buying services under Vision7 Media. It also has a public relations, social media and experiential marketing division called EDC, which encompasses agencies such as Elvis Communications and Dare. These agencies have a presence in the U.S., Canada and Britain, with roughly 1,100 employees total.

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Quebec City-based Vision7 was created at the time of Mill Road's investment in 2009, when there was a battle between partners Claude Lessard and François Duffar for Cossette Inc., which was publicly traded at the time. With the money from Mill Road, Mr. Lessard won the fight and took the company private.

Typical of private equity investments, the Mill Road deal was not meant to be long term.

"They won't be there for 20 years," Mr. Lessard said in an interview with The Globe and Mail last year. "There will be a time when we'll have to look at other options."

Part of the deal was also to leave a significant percentage of the equity in management's hands – more than when the company was public, Mr. Lessard said.

"Vision7 management is supportive of the review and is playing a major role in the process," Mill Road said in a statement. "While the company cannot speculate about potential outcomes, any decisions from the strategic review will include the best interests of its clients and employees and continued leadership from the management team."

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