WPP Group chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell yesterday (Wednesday) was moved to deny that French corporate raider Vincent Bolloré - with whom Sorrell claims he is "regularly" in conversation - had offered to sell WPP his 20% stake in French agency holding company Havas.

Having last Friday voluntarily revealed his contacts with Bolloré [WAMN: 25-Apr-05], many observers wonder exactly what WPP's canny knight is playing at?

Sorrell is no Candide. Nor is he known for accidental indiscretions. He will have been aware his revelation would trigger speculation of a possible WPP-Havas deal - and it is improbable he would have inadvertently blurted out the fact in the 'en garde' environment of last Friday's formal interview with French newspaper Le Monde.

Seasoned Sorrell-watchers think it no coincidence that his revelation to Le Monde coincided with Bolloré's first overt move on Havas since amassing his 20% stake - a formal demand for four seats on the French company's board.

Yet five days after stirring the pot, Sir Martin is now trying to cool the situation with yesterday's statement that Bolloré has "never offered" to sell his Havas stake to WPP.

Which, of course, is not quite that same as saying the matter has never been discussed. Or that an offer will not be forthcoming.

Data sourced from mad.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff