ST. PETERSBURG — British advertising and public relations giant WPP has bought Triad Retail Media, a fast-growing St. Petersburg-based company that helps retailers sell ads on their websites.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal online said the sales price was roughly $300 million, citing people familiar with the matter.
Founded in 2004 as an independent company, Triad nearly four years ago was bought by Rockbridge Growth Equity LLC, a private equity firm founded by Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert. Under the deal announced Thursday, it will become part of WPP 's digital ad-buying group Xaxis.
Like Rockbridge, Xaxis is expected to continue running Triad as a stand-alone operation with current management kept intact.
Triad helps major retailers such as Walmart, eBay, CVS, Sam's Club, Staples and Kohl's sell ads while it is also paid by major brands to create ads. According to the company, more than 1,500 of the world's largest advertisers use its creative, data and production solutions to connect with shoppers.
Since Rockbridge and Triad came together in late 2012, Triad's revenue and profits have more than tripled.
Over the past decade, Triad has grown revenues at 25 to 30 percent every year, most recently increasing gross revenue from $366 million in 2014 to $502 million in 2015. It currently employs nearly 700 people in 14 offices worldwide, including 400 in the Tampa Bay area.
Triad Retail Media CEO Roger Berdusco said that "robust growth" — and ongoing hiring spree — is expected to continue under its new parent.
"Media is moving more and more from traditional to digital, and that's fueling our growth," Berdusco said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
WPP will help Triad by exposing it to both new technologies and new markets overseas.
WPP's "deep bench of technologists" can be leveraged to develop new advertising products for video and mobile in particular, Berdusco said.
Geographically, the opportunity is equally strong. WPP is in 115 countries; Triad is in four: the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands.
WPP has been following Triad for a decade, Berdusco said, but talks about an acquisition for WPP's Xaxis unit "heated up about a year ago" after executives visited the St. Petersburg campus.
Xaxis CEO Brian Gleason said the deal seizes on a changing retail landscape. "The retail media industry will become a final touch-point between the consumer and transaction," he said. "The closer we can bring brands to that relationship is pivotal for us."
Contact Jeff Harrington at email@example.com. Follow @JeffMHarrington.