Then there were three?
There are four big marcoms holding companies (if you exclude Dentsu which is still 90 per cent Japan as it waits for clearance from China to buy Aegis): WPP, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and interpublic (IPG).
Late last year all the chatter was that Publicis Groupe had made an informal approach for IPG but the deal was abruptly scrapped when the news got out and IPG’s share price rose sharply. Both sides denied a deal was in the offing but not especially vigorously.
IPG’s share price is still rising even though it had a poor 2012 in turnover terms; problems at McCann and DraftFCB, its two biggest agencies, holding back strong performers like digital network R/GA and Deutsch. McCann boss Nick Brien exited with DraftFCB’s Laurence Boschetto about to follow suit. So do Wall Street’s version of the boys in dark glasses think a deal is back on?
Some IPG insiders certainly do; they can see the company being regularly out-matched by WPP and co when it comes to big holding company pitches.
The ever-reliable Jim Edwards in Business Insider also points to a pretty big incentive for IPG CEO Michael Roth (left) to sell the company: he stands to gain $34m if the company’s ownership changes.
Now Roth, of course, will obviously do what’s best for the company. But he and other IPG shareholders would welcome a full bid from PG. WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell would certainly be tempted but his shareholders (and regulators) would surely prevent him. Omnicom’s John Wren is probably too cautious and his agencies (BBDO, DDB and TBWA) are probably too big in the US for the regulators there.
Private equity is a possibility but it or they would need to team with an ad agency and would they trust, say, Miles Nadal’s (still loss-making) MDC? So PG remains the favourite – if boss Maurice Levy can persuade his shareholders and advisory board to bet the ranch on what, at $6bn minimum (IPG is currently valued at $5.4bn), would be adland’s biggest deal to date.
It might not happen of course – but it probably will.