Is Havas more or less likely to be sold now that CEO David Jones has decided to step down to form his own social media company?
New boss Yannick Bollore (left), son of major shareholder Vincent, has rather pointedly not ruled out a sale although he says Havas, a quoted company, is performing in line with expectations this year.
It may be financially but there are some rather dark clouds on the immediate horizon. Its Arnold Worldwide agency has recently lost Volvo, now owned by the Chinese, to Grey and bits of biggest global client Reckitt Benckiser have already departed with others under review. US drugstore giant CVS Caremark, worth a whopping $400m in media spend, is reviewing its creative account out of Arnold too. They say any agency is only three calls away from disaster and Havas/Arnold has had them all.
Havas, valued at about £2bn, is big enough to ride these out, especially as the Bollore coffers were enriched by about £500m when Dentsu bought Aegis (Vincent Bollore was the biggest shareholder there too) but its value would be hammered.
Do the Bollores still see Havas as an integral part of their empire? Bollore senior also owns five per cent of Vivendi and will become its chairman soon.
Havas has other assets apart from the eponymous agency and smaller sibling Arnold. It owns the biggest agency in France, BETC, which has a formidable creative reputation plus numerous digital outfits which Jones has been assiduously picking up over the years.
As such it may well attract a predator or three. The most obvious candidates are Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP or Dentsu/Aegis. But a private equity group may also decide to chance its hand.
Buying Havas wouldn’t allow WPP to retain its status as the world’s biggest marcoms company once the Omnicom/Publicis merger goes through but it would narrow the gap substantially – and cost a hell of a lot less than Interpublic, which would cost at least four times as much. Dentsu still doesn’t have a credible creative offering in Europe and some other parts of the world.
What’s the betting that Jones starts his promised new company, gets bought out by one of the above and is re-installed at Havas as the Bollores take their cash elsewhere? Stranger things have happened.