Havas Fights for $300m Intel Biz as Bolloré Hovers

06 October 2004

'It never rains but it pours,' runs the old proverb. 'Tell us about it,' could be the anguished response from beleaguered French agency holding company Havas.

The agency group is already on tenterhooks over the motives of Gallic corporate raider Vincent Bolloré, who within the last month has upped his 10.4% stake in Havas to 15.74%, giving him 16.14% of its voting rights.

And now Havas has now been told by a major client, Intel, that its $300 million (€243.59m; £168.27m) account has been put into review.

Intel's global creative business is handled by Havas' lead network Euro RSCG Worldwide, while media buying is in the hands of sibling MPG. Rumors about the stability of both accounts have been in circulation for over twelve months – although Havas has already been invited to repitch.

There is no link between the corporate raider's stakebuilding and Intel's decision, insists Havas. "Obviously some will use this to destabilize the company but the Intel review has nothing to with Mr Bolloré," says a Havas spokeswoman.

"There is a new chief marketing officer at Intel (Eric Kim, who joined the company from Samsung) and most of the time that means a review could happen. This doesn't mean we have lost the business."

There is no specific deadline for completion of the review but an Intel spokeswoman expects the process to take "a few months". Meantime there is much speculation about who is calling who at the Bolloré office. WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell, for one, has admitted to a cosy telephone chat [WAMN 28-Sep-04].

Wall Street and Madison Avenue are in rumour overdrive, naming Publicis Groupe boss Maurice Levy as another likely object of a tele-tete-a-tete. And to fuel the speculation further, other onlookers point to Sorrell's close relationship with Intel's new marketing boss.

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