‘Largesse’ is not a term the advertising industry normally associates with Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group – especially when prefixed with the expository ‘tremendous’.

But AdWeek.com chooses exactly those words in its story today about the price paid by WPP for New York hotshop Berlin Cameron & Partners [WAMN: 12-Dec-01].

According to sources, says Adweek, “Sorrell exhibited tremendous largesse in his buyout of Berlin Cameron”. In his eagerness to acquire BCP, claims the trade weekly, Sir Martin inked an earnout agreement that could hike the total cost of the purchase to over $40 million – quintupling the average yardstick of 1.5 times annual earnings. Last year BCP posted a profit of around $8m.

No-one, natch, is prepared either to confirm or deny the story and lips are zipped both at BCP and WPP. But Andy Berlin, now chief creative officer and joint-ceo of WPP’s Red Cell network, raised his head above the parapet for long enough to deny Adweek’s allegation that his partner, head of planning Ewen Cameron, is in fact a larger shareholder in BCP than he.

Meantime, Sorrell seeks to beef-up the European end of Red Cell by similar means [if not similar largesse] and is said to have fixed London flavor-of-the-month shop Mother in his sights. But neither Mother nor WPP would comment on the speculation.

News source: Adweek.com