Executive Duo Whip Cordiant Rug Out From Beneath AVA’s Feet

17 July 2003

The two executives designated by Active Value Advisors as new chairman and finance director of Cordiant Communications if elected at next week’s shareholders meeting , deftly whipped the rug from beneath the feet of their sponsor yesterday by withdrawing their candidature.

AVA’s apparent gameplan was to use its 28.75% voting muscle to block Cordiant’s takeover by WPP Group (which would require at least 75% of the vote), then oust Cordiant’s present board and install former Jazz FM chief executive Richard Wheatley as chairman and ex-WestLB banker Stephen Davidson as finance director. A mysterious unidentified third man was also said by AVA to be waiting in the wings to become chief executive.

But Wheatley and Davidson declared Wednesday they would no longer stand for the positions – although neither offered a convincing explanation as to why.

Wheatley attributed his volte-face to Cordiant board’s decision to recommend WPP Group’s offer to shareholders – but given that this was announced last month [WAMN: 18-Jun-03], observers wonder why it took the duo more than five weeks to jump ship?

“I'm pleased to have been involved but that stage is past. I wish them well,” said Wheatley enigmatically.

AVA chose to ignore the duo’s defection. “[We have] been exploring in detail a number of options … with a view to recovering the substantial loss of value faced by shareholders if WPP’s proposed recommended acquisition of Cordiant by way of scheme of arrangement is approved,” it said. “Active Value continues to believe that shareholders are being deprived of significant value by the terms of WPP’s scheme.”

Cordiant also contributed to the war of words, criticizing AVA as having “been of no assistance to either the company or its shareholders and are now seen to have no plan whatsoever”.

WPP and Publicis – the latter seen by some as the eminence gris in the long-running melodrama – remained silent over the latest twist in the plot.

Data sourced from: Multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff