Ojjeh Is Publicis Shareholder; Group Denies Cordiant Collusion

11 July 2003

If Hollywood ever gets around to making a movie of the ongoing Cordiant Communications saga, the star role – a glamorous, incredibly wealthy, Paris based chess-promoting Syrian widow of an arms dealer, who makes a dramatic eleventh hour intervention in the takeover battle for an ailing global ad agency – is a cert for Joan Collins.

But who’d write a script that improbable?

Meantime, here’s the latest twist in the ad world’s very own soap. Madame Nahed Ojjeh, who has amassed a key 10.75% holding in Cordiant over the past ten days, was revealed Thursday also to be a shareholder in Publicis Groupe – whose own bid for Cordiant was trumped by WPP Group [WAMN: 19-Jun-03].

Publicis, however, is adamant it has no part in Ojjeh’s unexplained Cordiant share shopping spree.

Said a spokesman: “Mrs Ojjeh is a shareholder of our group, but it’s totally official. She has made a declaration that she is - that's public. We deny formally any project [to invest in Cordiant]. This position is totally [consistent with] our decision taken by the supervisory board not to buy Cordiant.”

Concurrent with these happenings, Britain's Takover Panel announced Thursday it will expand its investigation into recent dealings in Cordiant stock to ascertain whether there has been collusion between any of the parties.

Other than Ojjeh, the panel names no names of those under its microscope. But there has been much public hypothesis that Ojjeh is acting in concert with Active Value Advisors, Cordiant’s biggest shareholder, which over recent weeks has systematically upped its stake to 28.75% – and counting?

It has also been suggested that the mystery stake-building is motivated by a wish to manipulate the selling price of Cordiant’s 25% stake in Publicis-controlled global media network ZenithOptimedia [WAMN: 10-Jul-03].

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk and telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff