'Put Up Or Shut Up': Sorrell Challenges GfK's Bid for TNS

13 August 2008

BEIJING: A pastmaster at leveraging  his carefully crafted image, WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell chose with meticulous care the time and place for his latest ambush of German research giant GfK – his rival for the fair hand of Taylor Nelson Sofres.

With the planet's attention riveted on the Beijing Olympics, Sorrell (pictured above) carefully positioned himself in the same orbit as national presidents and premiers, caught the eye of the press, and delivered his latest pontification.

Focussing on GfK's counter-bid for TNS, he told Reuters: "They are misleading the market. They say they have access to an unidentified but substantial source of capital. It is time to put up or shut up."

And should GfK – the Romeo of choice so far as TNS is concerned – seal its union with the London-headquartered research firm, Sir Martin's eye is already roving elsewhere.

And he's thinking big! Buoyed by Olympian grandiosity, Sorrell confided to Reuters that he views such US colossi as IMS Health and The Nielsen Company as potential targets – to say nothing of smaller fry such as Aegis-owned Synovate.

Meantime, GfK is reportedly struggling to raise the readies from the likes of private equity firms Cinven and Apax Partners. It is also said to be cosying-up to Gunter Herz, a rich German whose fortune accrues in part from the Tchibo cafe chain.

Britain's Daily Telegraph estimates that GfK must raise up to £600 million ($1.14bn; €765.0m) to better Sorrell's offer.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK) and Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff