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Published: Tuesday, 2/10/2004

Survey firm with Toledo ties gets new name

Seven months after getting new British owners, an opinion research firm with deep Toledo ties that continues to be a major employer here has a new moniker.

The name NFO WorldGroup will disappear and metro Toledo operations of the firm, which are in the suburb of Northwood, will be known as TNS NFO. Chris Goard, marketing director of parent firm TNS in London, explained the changes yesterday to the firm's 600 employees.

Some U.S. operations will drop the NFO name in favor of TNS, which was created with the merger of British and French market research firms in 1997. The merged firm was known until last year as Taylor Nelson Sofres. TNS NFO will include Northwood headquarters and field offices in Cincinnati; Greenwich, Ct.; Minneapolis; Atlanta; San Francisco; and Chicago.

Together, the offices have about 700 employees. No job losses are expected in Northwood.

Explaining the name changes, Mr. Goard, in an interview before the presentation, said: "With operations in 70 countries and 40 different brands, if you don't have something that is the glue between them, you're not going to make progress."

Started in Toledo in 1946 by a former executive of Owens-Illinois Inc. and known for many years as National Family Opinion, NFO used its pioneering work with consumer focus groups and strong balance sheet to generate international sales of $462 million in 2002. Its most famous product is the U.S. Commerce Department's monthly consumer confidence survey.

That firm was purchased from Interpublic Group of Companies, a struggling advertising holding company, last year by TNS. With the sale, former Toledoan William Lipner, a grandson-in-law of NFO's founder, became vice chairman of the parent firm, which is traded on the London Stock Exchange. The firms had combined 2002 sales of $1.4 billion.

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