NEW YORK: Tuesday's Wall Street Journal asks an intriguing question: is WPP Group's headline-happy ceo Sir Martin Sorrell running down his rivals while talking up a takeover?

History, says the WSJ, suggests the savvy knight could be doing exactly that - and points to earlier publicly-aired criticisms from Sorrell both of Grey Global Group and London-headquartered media specialist Tempus Group prior to successful takeover bids.

The newspaper also observes that similar tactics preceded WPP's takeover of Cordiant Communications which it bought for around $450 million in 2003.

Recent remarks by Sorrell, the WSJ's rune-readers believe, suggest upcoming acquisition action. It refers to disparaging remarks made by Sorrell during a recent conference call with the entrail-rakers of Wall Street and the City of London.

Of one potential takeover target, he remarked: "Aegis's growth in media planning and buying is really sub par," before going on to finger researcher Taylor Nelson Sofres. "They've had issues in America for the last two or three years and they seem to have come home to roost."

The advertising savant's remarks intrigue the haruspices. "He's very forthright, and I would say he's identifying opportunities out there" opines Bear Stearns' advertising analyst Tim Nollen.

While Numis Securities' analyst Lorna Tilbian demonstrated her insight into the parallel universes of finance and advertising with a penetrating deduction: "Maybe it's a tactic," she opined.

Sir Martin declined to comment on the WSJ article.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff