Hitherto the private equity investment fraternity regarded advertising agencies in much the same light as a skunk -- appealing to look at, appalling to nuzzle.

But, it seems, the times they are a-changing.

Whether it is the perceived glamour of the agency business -- or a sign that the previously stable global investment market has become so volatile that agencies are as safe a haven as anywhere else -- private equity companies are taking an unusual interest in Grey Global Group since it was put up for auction by 77-year old chairman/ceo and controlling stockholder Ed Meyer.

According to those close to the situation, Providence Equity Partners has joined the Grey grabs tussle, alongside fellow high-stakes gamblers Blackstone Group and Hellman Friedman. All three are US-based.

While in the wing there lurks a fourth US firm, Quadrangle Group, which has agreed to provide funding for a possible bid by French agency group Havas. Another serious contender is WPP Group but the British company is likely to fund a bid without enlisting a financial partner.

Word from the Grey bunker is that Meyer has set a 'final offer' deadline for the end of the first full week in September. Reports one of the suitors: "There's a big holiday with Labor Day [September 6], so I think they want some form of resolution soon after that."

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff