Albeit no Romany, WPP Group's Sir Martin Sorrell read the writing on Havas' wall some months ago -- and lost no time in sharing his thoughts (ambitions, some say) with attendees at a Goldman Sachs media conference in New York [WAMN: 20-Oct-03].

Last week Sorrell was again in prognostic mode, telling Campaign magazine: "Strategically [Havas'] position is vulnerable. [It] has to decide where it is, given what's happened clientwise. MPG [Media Planning Group, Havas' media network] wants to be a top-five media player. It has to decide how to get there [WAMN: 10-Feb-04]."

Did someone at Havas incline an ear toward the sage? Or, more likely, to the army of analysts chanting the same dirge for best part of a year? Likelier still, the Havas corporate mind may have been concentrated by MPG's recent loss of the £58 million ($108.43m; €85.61m) Orange mega-account.

On Tuesday the imperilled French agency holding company -- number six by 2002 global billings -- acted to reverse the fading fortunes of its media unit and man the ramparts against the possibility of hostile takeover.

Exit MPG's sixteen-strong board of directors. Enter a new lean commercial team of six led by chief executive Marc Mendoza, plus former joint managing directors Dominic Stead and Marie Oldham with Mike McElhatton, Simon Sadie and John Mcloughlin.

Mendoza vows there wil be no job losses: “If MPG is going to move forward, it has to rely on its staff to take it forward.” He also denied the MPG brand might be phased out. Havas is committed to building the network, which has 52 offices worldwide.

MPG's strategy will initially focus on winning medium-budget business

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