Aegis Stays Schtum Over Rumored Romance With Havas

06 January 2009

LONDON: Global media and research agency holding company Aegis Group remains zip-lipped over a report in the Sunday Times that it's in the throes of a strategic review of its business.

According to Dame Rumor, this includes the possible divestment of its research business Synovate and a 'relationship' with Havas. But as the proverb has it: "Dame Rumor is a lying jade."

Or, if you prefer: "There's never smoke without fire." Take your pick.

Many industry-watchers, however, take the rumour seriously, pointing to the recent ousting of ceo Robert Lerwill by newly imported chairman John Napier – a seasoned enforcer of regime change.

It is widely believed that Lerwill's walk down the platinum plank signals a change of heart among Aegis shareholders as to a closer relationship with French marketing services giant Havas.

Which is nice for the latter's chairman Vincent Bolloré, who just happens to be Aegis' largest shareholder with 29% of the company's voting equity.

Relations between Bolloré and Napier are said to be cosier than those between the Frenchman and Lerwill - described by insiders as 'Arctic'.

Napier, meantime, is said to have hired investment bank Merrill Lynch to conduct the strategic review.

Napier also chairs insurance giant Royal & Sun Alliance, with which Merrilll has close relations.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff