Syrian Billionairess Gambit – Cordiant Mystery Deepens

09 July 2003

Madame Nahed Ojjeh, the Syrian-born, Paris-based billionairess chess groupie, has upped her stake in Cordiant Communications from 2% [WAMN: 03-Jul-03] to a highly significant 10.75%, revealed the latter Tuesday evening.

Neither Cordiant nor any of the parties circling the stricken agency holding company can fathom the chess Queen’s game, reports The Times. And her lawyers have told Cordiant she “had not had any contact at this time” with Active Value Advisors, Cordiant’s largest shareholder with 28.75%.

Cordiant said it understood she would be “making full disclosure of her interests and dealings”, while Publicis Groupe denied any involvement in her shopping spree. From Active Value, a brusque “no comment”. The lips of Ojjeh, daughter of a former Syrian defence minister and the widow of a Saudi arms dealer, were likewise zipped.

Not normally known for her reticence, Ojjeh may be adopting a temporary low profile as her dealings are in breach of Takeover Panel rules. These require owners of 1% or more of stock in a takeover target to declare any further purchases of shares in that company by noon the following day.

Meantime, Ojjeh’s motives remain a mystery and the Takeover Panel is probing her actions and possible links she may have with the other parties involved.

One question in this intriguing affair that has yet to be publicly asked: from whom did Ojjeh buy her shares? That answer could be highly revealing.

Data sourced from: Financial Times and The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff