Sorrell Muses on Growth by Acquisition

30 June 2008

LONDON: Sir Martin Sorrell (pictured), progenitor of the planet's second-largest marketing services conglomerate via the process of buying other people's companies – more than 300 of them in over twenty years – now appears to be pondering the wisdom of that philosophy.

It is "difficult" to retain control of the "different tribes" and "warring factions" within WPP Group, Sorrell admitted to the Financial Times in a weekend interview.

Implying that WPP might become too unwieldy to manage if it continues to grow by acquisition, Sorrell pointed to the business sector he knows better than most other adfolk. The money trade.

"It's no accident that McKinsey and Goldman Sachs are very strong, because they've grown organically" opined the ad tycoon, referred to by David Ogilvy as an "odious little shit" when he made his takeover bid for Ogilvy & Mather in 1989.

As to his latest reluctant quarry – Taylor Nelson Sofres – Sorrell issued a barely-veiled threat to TNS chief executive David Lowden.

"I don't think there is any such thing as a hostile takeover," Sorrell opined. "It's not hostile to shareholders, the people in business and certainly not to the clients. It might be hostile to the ceo."

Late on Sunday the adland knight was huddled in discussion with his financial advisors as to whether/when to launch a hostile bid for TNS, currently in merger discussions with Germany's GfK Verein

Sorrell seemed puzzled as to why his overtures have been so brusquely rejected.

"I think the central question ... is this: why the board of TNS decided on a nil-premium merger, where they surrendered board control and gave a controlling bloc to an unknown charity [GfK Verein]."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff