Publicis Groupe’s Levy rubbishes Sorrell claim that Interpublic takeover was on

Those old protagonists Maurice Levy of Publicis Groupe and Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP are trading blows in the unlikely environs of The Drum, a British advertising magazine that once used to concern itself with the ad business in places like Manchester and Newcastle, not Mayfair and the Champs-Elysees.

On Monday SMS told the Drum that he thought Publicis Groupe’s denial that it was planning to bid for US marcoms firm Interpublic “lacked veracity.” He pointed out, as we did, that they had denied some things but not being interested in a takeover of IPG.

Yesterday Levy responded thus:

“On August 6, you posted an article on the Drum website stating that “WPP CEO Sorrell ‘challenges the veracity’ of Publicis Groupe’s denial over Interpublic acquisition talks“. I found the content of this article somewhat surprising. A clear statement had been issued by Publicis Groupe that very morning, firmly refuting any involvement or contact with IPG, either directly or indirectly.

“I personally couldn’t care less about Martin Sorrell, and what he thinks or says about Publicis Groupe is always rubbish. If he is foolish enough to challenge the truth behind the official statement, that’s one thing, but I’m surprised by your decision to grant this preposterous position such importance by featuring it in the columns of your publication’s website.”

And Sorrell? Always keen to have the last word he offered:

“Maurice’s typically articulate response fails to answer the implied question. Has he had talks with (Interpublic boss Michael) Roth and/or IPG or not?”

Boys, boys.

But does this entertaining spat reveal any more about PG’s intentions (or lack of them)?

Well Levy says PG has had no contact with Interpublic ‘directly or indirectly’ so that seems pretty clear. Sorrell seems to be implying that the legendary French schmoozer has been dealing with Michael Roth behind the scenes, saying, in effect, “what about it Michael?”

IPG, intriguingly, has gone no further than its bald statement last week that it didn’t comment on market rumours. So Roth is staying out of this one, for as long as he can anyway.

He could, if he wished, clear this up straightaway. Maybe he’s just happy to see two of his main rivals fling choux-fleurs at each other. Or maybe..

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.