Sorrell Phones for Chat as Bolloré Ups Havas Stake to 14%

28 September 2004

Having upped his 10.4% stake in Havas to within a whisker of 14% [WAMN: 23-Sep-04], Paris-based corporate raider Vincent Bolloré has been receiving pally phone calls from none other than WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell.

Sorrell admits to calling the French speculator (now Havas' largest shareholder), teasing UK newspaper The Independent with the revelation that they discussed "the weather – and that's spelled w.h.e.t.h.e.r". On all else concerning their schmooze, the knight remained close. Likewise Bolloré.

One possible scenario advanced by Independent financial columnist Jeremy Warner is that the two tycoons are united in their dislike of Havas chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac and a desire to unseat him.

Bolloré is allegedly seething that de Pouzilhac defied his wishes in bidding for Grey Global; while Sorrell rankles still at having been pushed by the Havas boss into paying substantially over the odds in WPP's grudging takeover of the Tempus Group in 2001.

Both men would derive pleasure from the ousting of de Pouzilhac. And there are euros and pounds sterling to be amassed all round should the vulnerable Havas fall to WPP. Such a move would rocket the London-headquartered agency group from number two in the global rankings to unchallengeable champ.

Other more pragmatic onlookers believe Sir Martin would be biting-off more than WPP can chew in targeting Havas before even starting to ingest its latest acquisition, Grey Global. But the wily knight has never been averse to playing a waiting game; and an ally in the hand is worth two in the bush!

Data sourced from The Independent; additional content by WARC staff