London-headquartered WPP Group has made its long expected move on Tempus Group, the British-based global media and branding shop for which Havas Advertising has already made an agreed offer.

However, the bid is informal at this stage. It was presented face-to-face at a meeting on Sunday evening between the main protagonists – Tempus chief executive Chris Ingram, WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, and their respective henchmen, convened at the London offices of Tempus advisers, Lazard Brothers.

WPP’s unofficial cash offer of £5.50 to £5.55 a share ($7.86-$7.93 / E 8.67-E8.75) trumps Havas’ £5.41, although insiders say a formal counter-bid is unlikely without the wholehearted backing of Tempus management. But such supporters, if any, are unlikely to include Ingram who has publicly stated that he would not serve under Sorrell [WAMN: 07-Aug-01].

However, in a typically canny maneuver, Sorrell has built-in a face-saving device for the hostile Ingram should the deal go through. He would become co-chairman of Group Mindshare Edge, a new media holding company intended to preside over WPP’s two media planning/buying networks, Media Edge and Mindshare.

Sorrell has also dangled a mouthwatering carrot before Ingram’s first lieutenant Mainardo de Nardis, chief executive of Tempus flagship unit CIA Medianetwork, offering him the tiller of the hybrid spawned by a merger of CIA with WPP’s Media Edge, to be called TME/CIA. Such an entity would create the globe’s fourth-largest media planning/buying unit with aggregated annual billings of $15 billion.

Unsurprisingly, neither Ingram nor de Nardis were available to the press for comment.

News source: Wall Street Journal