Bellamy Hayden, one of Australia’s most respected strategy agencies, may be about to close its doors, with surviving staff likely to move to fellow Photon Group agency Naked Communications.
Mumbrella understands that several Bellamy Hayden staff were told today that their jobs were at risk, with some told not to come in tomorrow.
A formal announcement on the future of Bellamy Hayden is planned for Monday, Mumbrella understands. It is unclear what the upheavals mean for Bellamy Hayden’s spin-off PR agency Chatterbox.
The move looks to be one of several involving Photon Group’s smaller agencies coming together.
Photon is holding an extraordinary general meeting at 11am tomorrow to sign off its recapitalisation, with the outcome of the meeting not entirely a foregone conclusion. The group, which owns some of Australia’s best known agencies including BMF, BWM, Mark PR and Frank PR, was forced into a major restructure after it became clear that it would struggle to pay earnouts to founders of some of the agencies it has purchased.
This afternoon, Photon told the ASX that Naked co-founder Jon Wilkins was stepping down as MD of the group’s integrated communications and digital division and would instead become head of group development and strategy “with a mandate to drive greater collaboration amongst Photon agencies”.
When Mumbrella asked Wilkins about Bellamy Hayden changes this morning, he issued a firm denial, adding: “And I should know.”
Photon also confirmed that BMF’s founder Matthew Melhuish will become head of Australian agencies in a move that has been on the cards since June.
Earlier today Photon’s London-based corporate comms agency Likemind and brand consultancy Corporate Edge announced a merger under the Corporate Edge banner.
More than one source has suggested to Mumbrella that other consolidations will take place across the Photon Group.
Naked and Bellamy Hayden are arguably Australia’s two best comms strategy agencies. In theory, bringing the teams together would provide a formidable offering.
Although there are not many obvious client conflicts across the Bellamy Hayden and Naked portfolio, last month PepsiCo retained Bellamy Hayden as its media strategy agency, while handing media planning and buying duties to PHD. However Naked Communications has a long standing relationship with Coca Cola. While it remains to be seen whether that conflict could be managed, a plausible outcome would be Naked giving priority to its deep relationship with Coca Cola.