Master thaumaturgist Sir Martin Sorrell, ceo of WPP Group, has amazed the advertising world by reportedly winning approval from Procter & Gamble to bid for Grey Global Group.
Few clients are willing to entrust their business to an agency that handles competing brands but P&G, in particular, has for decades been notoriously intractable on this issue.
And as every first-year media studies student knows, WPP agencies are bursting at the seams with business from Unilever, P&G's greatest global rival.
However, according to unconfirmed reports from sources close to the matter, P&G has told Sorrell that -- should he win the Grey auction -- it would not perceive there to be a conflict of interest with Unilever provided a cast-iron guarantee is given that Grey remains a discrete unit within the WPP empire.
Such assurances were reportedly exchanged two weeks ago in a face-to-face meeting stateside with senior P&G executives. WPP has declined to comment on the matter, referring inquirers to P&G. The latter also refused comment until a statement is forthcoming from Grey.
Seasoned Sorrell-watchers scent an all but done deal -- subject only to agreement on price between two world-class hagglers: Sorrell and Ed Meyer, Grey's 77-year-old chairman and controlling stockholder.
The news, if true, will leave Publicis Groupe chairman/ceo Maurice Lèvy spitting nails, having less than a month back pulled out of the Grey auction on grounds that P&G would not tolerate any account conflicts.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff