'Conscience' Equals Cash at Bolloré's Havas

02 January 2006

Senior executives at Havas, the global marketing services company headquartered in Suresnes, France, are reportedly undergoing a crisis of conscience.

Or cash. Or both.

Following the ousting and €8 million ($9.47m; £5.51m) payoff of Havas chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac by corporate raider Vincent Bolloré [WAMN: 23-Jun-05], there has been an outbreak of 'conscience' among other Havas honchos who have jumped ship.

This admirable if conveniently hazy condition is claimed by former head of communications Alain Cayzac and ex-finance director Jacques Hérail, both of whom quit the company (the former, voluntarily) in the wake of de Pouzilhac's departure.

Prior to Bolloré's seizure of control last summer Cayzac and Hérail, along with a dozen or so other de Pouzilhac loyalists, were granted "conscience clauses" entitling them to lucrative severance packages if command of Havas changed hands.

Cayzac, a co-founder of Havas flagship agency Euro RSCG, claims that the "conscience" clause allows him to treat de Pouzilhac's departure as a de facto sacking of himself, thereby making him eligible for compensation of around €3m.

Quondam finance director Hérail, who was fired by Bolloré after his seizure of power for failing to reveal the existence of the conscience clauses, claims €6m in severance pay.

But Philippe Wahl, Bolloré placeman and new Havas ceo, is reportedly refusing to pay the sums demanded by the defectors. However, neither he - nor any other Havas official - will confirm or deny this.

Earlier this month, Bolloré indicated that Havas' revenue in 2005 is expected to be around €1.41bn, with organic growth in the region of 1.5%.

The latter figure is way below the 2.8% forecast at the end of September, which Bolloré attributes to likely weak results for December compared with unusually strong revenues in December 2004.

The outlook for 2006 will be rosier in H2, with the January-June period likely to be adversely impacted by accounts lost in 2005, Bolloré warned.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff