British firm to buy Just Marketing for $76 million

October 25, 2013

Just Marketing International, a Zionsville-based motorsports marketing firm, is being acquired by London-based communications giant Chime Communications Plc for $76 million, Just Marketing officials confirmed Friday morning.

The acquisition will do little to affect JMI's immediate future,  said its founder, Zak Brown, adding that the company will maintain its focus on sponsorship deals in IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One racing.

The 80 employees at JMI's Zionsville headquarters will not be affected, he said.

"The (Zionsville) office is here to stay and was one of the critically important reasons in why Chime was interested in us," Brown said. "The only thing this will mean to our (Zionsville) headquarters is accelerated growth."

Brown added: "They acquired us for our expertise in motorsports, our clients and our people, and they don't want to change any of that."

JMI, which was founded in Indianapolis by Brown in 1994, is 60-percent owned by New York-based private equity firm Spire Capital Partners. London-based global ad agency WPP owns 20 percent, and Brown holds the remaining 20 percent.

Though Brown is giving up his entire ownership stake for the first time, he says he "still feels like an owner.

"I don't see my mindset changing," Brown said. "I'm still leading the company and I'm still bent on seeing it grow. It still feels like my baby."

In addition to its Zionsville workforce, JMI has 60 employees in London. The company in 2012 reported revenue of $40.8 million and so-called EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $7.7 million.

Brown, a California native and former race car driver, started the firm with a single airline client, TWA. The firm made a name for itself by becoming one of the first companies to represent corporate clients interested in marketing through motorsports. Most firms represented racing teams, and tried to attract corporate interests through their clients.

Over the years, Brown signed deals to represent some of the biggest sponsors in racing, including Subway, DeWalt Tools, UPS, Verizon and Crown Royal. Among other things, Brown was instrumental in brokering a deal with NASCAR to usher in makers of hard liquor as sponsors.

More recently JMI has branched into representing drivers and teams, signing deals with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and John Force Racing, a popular drag racing team.

Brown also has become a major presence in the world of F1, even being named as a possible successor to the global racing circuit’s czar, Bernie Ecclestone. Earlier this year, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles tried unsuccessfully to hire Brown as the CEO of the IndyCar Series.

Brown will remain CEO of Just Marketing but will take on the additional role of group head of new business development for Chime Sports Marketing, Chime's sports division. In that role, he said, he will be able to introduce JMI's clients to a broader array of Chime's services.

"Now, we have the help of a much more strategic partner rather than a financial partner. Now, JMI can offer its clients a more turnkey solution," Brown said.

Chime is a global advertising behemoth. The publicly traded company has 1,500 employees worldwide and annual revenue topping $550 million.

Chime's clients include Samsung, GSK and the International Olympic Committee.
 

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