Publicis Charged Full Price for WPP’s Zenith Stake

12 August 2003

Sir Martin Sorrell will squeeze as much as possible out of Publicis Groupe for his newly acquired stake in ZenithOptimedia.

Sorrell’s WPP Group gained a 25% share in the media agency when it took over floundering holding company Cordiant Communications. Publicis holds the other 75% and is keen to take full control, but under its contract with Cordiant it is due to pay €75 million ($85m; £53m) for the privilege.

Publicis chairman/ceo Maurice Levy yesterday claimed Sorrell had cancelled a verbal agreement that WPP would sell the stake for a cut-price €63.75m.

This arrangement, revealed the Publicis boss, was made on June 16, when the two advertising moguls were still vying for control of Cordiant. Now WPP has triumphed, however, Levy says the price has reverted to the full €75m – almost €60m more than the final value of the entire Cordiant group.

Adding certain peripheral ZO operations in Asia and other regions, Publicis will end up paying €85m to take full control of the media services giant.

The news came as Publicis reported second-quarter revenues of $2.11 billion, a year-on-year rise of 59%. Much of this growth reflects the purchase of Bcom3 Group last year, but excluding acquisitions/disposals and currency changes Publicis still posted a 1.2% revenue rise – the group’s first organic growth since Q4 2001.

North America, the holding company’s leading region by revenue, saw the most impressive growth, rising 80.1% in total and 4.6% in organic terms. In Europe, headline expansion stood at 37.9% but organic revenues slipped 2.4%.

Levy believes America “is definitely picking up”, but the outlook for Europe is uncertain as the ad market in Publicis’ native France continues to decline.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff