Bolloré to Tighten Grip on Havas, 'Eat' WPP's Sorrell

24 June 2005

If Havas board member Jacques Séguéla is to be believed, Vincent Bolloré is eager to transform his corporate raider image into that of advertising tycoon.

Speaking with reporters Thursday at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, Séguéla - a French advertising icon and founder of Euro RSCG - said he'd been told by Bolloré that he had contacted all Havas' clients to assure them he didn't intend to break up the company.

However, Havas staff and clients, conscious that old habits die hard, will expect deeds not words to convince them that Bolloré has eschewed his usual 'buy-up and break up' routine.

According to Séguéla, just such a deed has been done. Bolloré intends to sell his shipping line Delmas - the nation's second largest fleet - to raise more capital for the purpose of upping his Havas stake from its present level of 22.4%. French law decrees that any shareholding in excess of 33% automatically triggers a takeover bid.

The tycoon's holding company Bolloré Media Investissements has since confirmed that Delmas is up for sale and expected raise in the region of $600 million (€498m; £330m).

Meantime, Séguéla, flag-waving on his home turf, all but sang La Marseillaise to the assembled press corps. "Havas has a tiger spirit," he said, "nimble, fast and strong". Larger competitors, like Omnicom and WPP, are elephants. Publicis Groupe, too, is a tiger, but a "French tiger".

The decidedly untigerish smile on Séguéla's face when he mentioned his Gallic rival suggested that it isn't seen in the same light as Havas' non-French competition.

Referring to other shops, he continued: "Mother, Crispin Porter Bogusky, BBH, those agencies known for creativity, they're tigers. They have a tiger spirit.

"Euro [RSCG] is a tribe of tigers. We can eat the elephants." Holding his hand around his throat and pulling a face, Séguéla said, "We can eat Martin [Sorrell, head of WPP, the world's second-largest marketing communications agency]."

Bon appetite. But keep the Alka-Seltzer within reach!

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