Lawsuit Threatens WPP-Grey Sweetheart Deal

21 December 2004

New York bankruptcy lawyer and shareholder activist David Shaev has tossed an astutely-judged spanner into the works of WPP Group's $1.25 billion (€933.11m; £641.62m) agreed acquisition of Grey Global Group.

It emerged Monday that Shaev, whose investment portfolio includes Grey stock, last week filed a suit in Delaware Chancery Court petitioning a judge to halt the takeover on grounds that the terms of the sale are 'unfair'.

Bankruptcy lawyers are, of course, renowned for their sense of fair play and Shaev is no exception.

He pleads that the WPP-Grey deal is inequitable to shareholders because Grey's founder and chairman Edward H Meyer will cream $86.9m from the deal if the sale is completed this year, but just $54.5m if delayed until 2005.

The former scenario, Shaev fears, would reduce the amount public shareholders will receive. Hence his delaying tactic.

In any event, given the recent intervention on antitrust grounds by the European Commission [WAMN: 03-Dec-04], it seems unlikely that the takeover will go final by the end of December.

But few observers believe the deal is seriously endangered by the EC's interest, which relates to concerns over the enlarged group's European media buying muscle. This would align Grey's Mediacom with WPP networks MindShare and Mediaedge:cia.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff