Hot on the heels of announcing he plans to tender for more shares in Havas – now helmed by his son Yannick – taking the family’s share to over 50 per cent, he seems to have used his contacts to wrench the whopper €500m O2 media account out of long-serving agency ZenithOptimedia. Bollore struck the deal with Telefonica chairman Cesar Alierta apparently. Bollore and Alierta are pals as Vivendi sold Telefonica its Brazil mobile business earlier this year.
ZenithOptimedia is owned by Publicis Groupe, Havas’ long-time French rival. Publicis boss Maurice Levy will not be feeling quite so friendly towards Bollore and Alierta although it doesn’t seem there’s much he can do about it. Levy, though, also has connections that go right to the heart of the French business establishment and, indeed, government. So he may well cry ‘foul.’
Whatever ensues, it’s a funny old business when such a huge account moves for no apparent reason other than a private deal between the owners of two mega-companies. Must be pretty demoralising for ZO, which has been showing signs of life recently after a turbulent year or two. And, in a way, for Havas Media which doesn’t, on the face of it, seem to have won the account on its merits.