Publicis Groupe chief executive Maurice Levy took time out from an interview in Abu Dhabi yesterday to quash the crescendo of market rumours swirling around a possible takeover bid for Interpublic Group.
The logic behind such a move is surprisingly compelling, as I pointed out recently. Indeed, no less a person than Levy’s arch-rival, WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell, has suggested that’s exactly what Levy is up to.
But Levy is having none of it. Acquisitions, yes; but small ones and solely in the digital and emerging market spheres, apparently. Nevertheless, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a go at his adversary with the following observation: “My competitor likes to marry Publicis with Interpublic; maybe it’s because he has plenty of time and his business is not keeping him too busy.”
“Ouch”, you might think. Until you realise that this is part of a long and vituperative public dialogue between the two involving, among other things, Sorrell accusing Levy of creative arithmetic and Levy telling Sorrell to mind his margins. Even so, the “little Englishman trying to stir things up” clearly believes he has scored a palpable hit in this particular round of corporate chicken. We’ll see.
Stay tuned, by the way, for some imminent enlightenment on the Levy succession plan.