WPP’s Sorrell joins the sceptics about Publicis Groupe denial of bid for Interpublic

We might be flogging a dead horse here but it’s interesting that WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell has endorsed our view that Publicis Groupe’s much-reported ‘denial’ of a bid for Interpublic isn’t quite as denying as it seems.

Essentially PG has denied two things which don’t refute the story: one that it has talked to Interpublic officially and, two, that its banks (Rothschild mainly) have engaged in talks on its (official) behalf.

Here’s what SMS (left) told UK mag The Drum:

“You have to look at the Publicis statement very carefully because it’s more interesting for what it doesn’t say than what it does. I would challenge its veracity because it says in the statement that Publicis has not had any contact with IPG and it doesn’t say when. And are they saying they’ve never had a conversation with IPG? We know that to be untrue. So that is one thing. The second thing, to say that you haven’t commissioned a bank doesn’t mean anything. You might be in conversation with a bank, you might be in discussion with a bank, then you may or may not commission them to enter negotiations.

“I wouldn’t dismiss those rumours as they are trying to dismiss them. They are obviously trying to negate the impact on their share price.”

Which is, more or less, what we said this morning.

Now Sir Martin didn’t get where is today by being nice (or less than mischievous on occasion) about his rivals, of whom PG’s Maurice Levy is the one he takes most seriously.

WPP is almost certainly too big to bid for either PG or IPG, it would give his company between 40-50 per cent of the world ad market. Actually, that might appeal to him rather a lot, but regulators in the US and France might take a different view.

But there’s plenty of motivation for him to throw a spanner in the works and force Levy to make a rather more encompassing denial of interest in IPG.

Which the old French fox will doubtless resist.

So it’s not over yet anyway. But PG will probably regroup and come back another day.

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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.