It seems advertising guru Harold Mitchell was not at all happy with the wording of Neil Shoebridge’s article in Monday’s Financial Review
– “Mitchell puts his agency on the block” – which suggested that the
63-year-old patriarch of Mitchell & Partners was “serious” about
selling his locally owned media buying and planning agency to an
outside interest.

Mitchell sent the Fin this curt missive, published in the paper’s letters section today:

Your “Mitchell puts his agency on the block” (January 30)
suggested our firm, which is 30 years old today and still beating off
all of its international competitors, might be for sale. We are proudly
Australian, proud of our achievements, our staff and our clients, and I
can happily say on our 30th birthday – never!

Shoebridge, who interviewed Mitchell for the story, wrote that Mitchell
is “not planning to sell out entirely, as he’s keen to see his children
Stuart, 35, and Amanda, 31 – both of whom work at the agency – retain
control of the business.” But Mitchell, says Shoebridge, also “drops
heavy hints that Havas, the Paris-based marketing services group, will
acquire a large minority stake in Mitchell & Partners.”

So
what, exactly, was it about the article that moved Mitchell to fire off
a letter? “To be frank, I don’t know what his story is,” Shoebridge
told Crikey this morning. ” I have spoken to him and said that what I
wrote was what he told me.” But Mitchell responded to this by “waffling
on about something about the headline,” said Shoebridge. But, semantics
aside, Shoebridge says Mitchell definitely suggested he was looking for
an international minority shareholder for Mitchell & Partners –
such as the arrangement Clemenger has had with US group BBDO for years.

It
seems Mitchell didn’t like the image of his beloved agency on the
chopping block. We called the man himself to get his word on the
matter, but he’s been unable to get back to us.

Peter Fray

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