Sorrell ‘More Arrogant than the French’: de Pouzilhac

30 April 2002

Havas Advertising boss Alain de Pouzilhac launched a stinging attack over the weekend on Sir Martin Sorrell, his counterpart at WPP Group, branding him “arrogant” and a “bad guy”.

The rebuke, in an interview with the Sunday Times, relates to the bidding war over Tempus Group last year. WPP trumped Havas’s initial friendly offer, expecting the French ad giant to retaliate with a higher bid (thereby increasing the value of WPP’s 22% stake in Tempus).

But, post-September 11, Havas decided not to pursue the deal, leaving WPP with a soured bid which – despite Sorrell’s serpentine attempts to renege on the deal – it was compelled by Britain's Takeover Panel to honour. [WAMN: 07-Nov-02].

“It was one of the best pleasures of my life,” purred de Pouzilhac. “There is nothing I hate more deeply than arrogance. Normally, it is the French who are arrogant but I have found one guy who is more arrogant than our entire nation put together.”

Nor did the Sorrell-bashing stop there. “You have good guys and bad guys in life,” the Havas ceo continued, “and I think Sorrell is in the second category. For me, life is about ethics and values. You have to respect rivals and at least offer them a clean sheet from the start. We do not share the same values – for me he doesn’t exist.”

The good, the bad and the ugly aside, although the Tempus fiasco proved a rare misfortune for Sorrell, it left Havas’ problem unresolved: limited clout in the global media buying market.

However, de Pouzilhac quashed speculation that the French group is actively pursuing new acquisition targets (rumoured to include Aegis, Grey Global and Cordiant Communications).

“The only way we can grow our networks to where we want them is organic growth and acquisition. We are not in talks at the moment and are not looking for a big acquisition,” he declared, although adding that Havas would be willing to look at the right opportunity if it appeared.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff