Cordiant and Saatchi to Reunite?

15 May 2003

Beleaguered Cordiant Communications is currently awash with rumors as to its future. But one of the many stories going the rounds has more credulity than most – its credibility conferred by the Wall Street Journal which is not known for giving houseroom to lightweight speculation.

According to a report in Thursday’s edition, “people familiar with the situation” say that talks between Cordiant and Publicis Groupe over the future of their jointly-owned media network ZenithOptimedia are also exploring the possibility of a closer union.

Cordiant recently announced it will invoke its option to sell its 25% stake in Zenith to majority shareholder Publicis next January, and the pair are in talks about the minutiae of the transaction. Arising almost inevitably out of this agenda, is the possibility that the couple might renew their past intimacy – an option not rejected out of hand by the French agency giant.

The two agency networks share blood links. Following a stockholder revolt during the mid-90s the brothers Saatchi, wrongly believing they could walk on water, were ousted from their eponymous agency empire.

The new management, eager to appease its muscular investors by generating a few hundred million dollars, hived-off Bates Worldwide plus most other non-Saatchi activities in an IPO that created Cordiant. Shortly after that, in 2000, Publicis made its move on Saatchi & Saatchi.

A closer relationship could suit both parties. Debt-beset Cordiant for obvious reasons; Publicis because its marketing services unit could use the boost that Cordiant’s 141 Communications and HealthWorld networks would bring. And having recently relieved Bates/Cordiant of its $30 million (€26.47m; £18.77m) Allied Domecq liquor business, Publicis might not be averse to provide accommodation for the network’s remaining clientele.

Meantime, Cordiant remains in talks with other interested parties although it admitted Monday that all value the group at below its current share price.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff