Omnicom Cools Speculation Over Grey Global Bid

02 July 2004

Omnicom Group, the planet's largest agency holding company, implied Thursday it will not bid for Grey Global Group, believed to have been put up for grabs by Ed Meyer, its 77-year-old chairman, chief executive and controlling shareholder.

Although no firm statement of disinterest was forthcoming, Omnicom cfo Randall Weisenburger let it be known that despite a June 23 meeting with fund managers to discuss Grey, he has not signed a confidentiality agreement -- a necessary prerequisite to acquisition activity.

The frontrunner in the Grey race remains French giant Publicis Groupe, not least because of both companies' mutual interest in Procter & Gamble. It is also said that a close personal relationship exists between Meyer and Publicis boss Maurice Levy.

WPP Group too is believed to have a more than passing interest in Grey. Addressing WPP's annual meeting on June 30, Sir Martin Sorrell was asked if there was truth in the rumour it plans to bid for Grey [WAMN: 28-Jun-04].

"I don't think we can comment on that," Sorrell ducked. Although he could not resist adding: "Our market capitalisation is about $12.5bn; Grey's is about $1bn, $1.2bn. You can draw your own conclusions."

But WPP is rich in Unilever business, a situation believed by those who know the P&G mindset would be totally unacceptable to the Cincinnati colossus. Sir Martin, however, is as adept at the construction of Chinese Walls as he is at the engineering of personal incentive schemes.

Meyer, who is travelling in Europe this week, thoughtfully sent a memo to Grey staff to say he was aware of the sale speculation. However, he declined to further enlighten his anxious employees, claiming his lawyers had counselled a "no comment" policy.

It is not known if Meyer's European itinerary included a leisurely stroll past Publicis' elegant offices in the L' Avenue de Champs Élysées.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff