China's BlueFocus Communications has acquired a majority stake in the parent company of Cossette, a Quebec-based company that operates one of Canada's major advertising and public relations agencies.

Cossette has been a go-to ad agency for the federal government for years, providing services such as buying ads for the Economic Action Plan. Other clients include General Motors, Telus and Home Depot.

BlueFocus has purchased the North American assets of Vision 7 International from U.S. private equity firm Mill Road Capital for a reported $210 million.

Mill Road announced in May it was selling the stake it owned for five years in Vision 7. Brett Marchand, CEO of Cossette Communications, says there were several suitors for the firm and after seven months of talks, BlueFocus was the top choice.

In an interview with CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang, Marchand said BlueFocus is an "entrepreneurial company" with a similar corporate culture to Cossette.


China's BlueFocus has a capital fund to expand internationally. This image is from its website. (CBC)

He expects to build business with the BlueFocus connection.

"It gives us access obviously to Asia which is incredibly important for a bunch of our clients. It’s the new frontier," Marchand said.

"But also Chinese brands are looking more and more to come to North America so that is an opportunity to help those brands be successful."

Vision7 International, which has 1,200 employees in Canada, U.K., and the United States, will remain headquartered in Quebec City.

Cossette's founding partners, Claude Lessard and Pierre Delagrave, will have non-executive roles in the company.

BlueFocus and Vision7 said Monday that the new transaction will accelerate the growth plans for both organizations in North America and globally.

As the Globe and Mail reports "BlueFocus has set aside $300-million for acquisitions in Western countries, in a bid to become a global advertising player. The company currently has more than 3,500 employees around the world and a $4.6-billion market capitalization" — it is listed on the Shanghai exchange.

Among its other international holdings are stakes in London's We Are Social and PR firm Huntsworth, as well as San Francisco-based industrial design company Fuseproject.

Vision7 includes Cossette, which has offices across Canada and in Chicago, international public relations agency Citizen Relations, and media planning and buying agency Vision7 Media.


  • An earlier version of this story did not properly quote the Globe and Mail.
    Dec 17, 2014 3:39 PM ET
With files from CBC News