WPP's Sorrell Still Believes Interpublic Is In Play, Calls Publicis CEO A Liar

sorrell levyPublicis’ Levy and WPP’s Sorrell

Photo: WEF / Flickr, CC

On Aug. 6 we brought you the conspiracy theory that Publicis Groupe was, in fact, pursuing a takeover of Interpublic Group, which is based on the notion that Publicis’ denial of talks specifically didn’t deny that they were discussing the idea with their banks.Now it turns out that WPP CEO Martin Sorrell—who actively dislikes Publicis CEO Maurice Levy—has been promoting just that theory in Australia.

He told The Drum, a British ad trade publication, that Publicis’ statement might be a lie:

“You have to look at the Publicis statement very carefully because it’s more interesting for what it doesn’t say than what it does. I would challenge its veracity because it says in the statement that Publicis has not had any contact with IPG and it doesn’t say when. And are they saying they’ve never had a conversation with IPG? We know that to be untrue. So that is one thing. The second thing, to say that you haven’t commissioned a bank doesn’t mean anything. You might be in conversation with a bank, you might be in discussion with a bank, then you may or may not commission them to enter negotiations.

I wouldn’t dismiss those rumours as they are trying to dismiss them. They are obviously trying to negate the impact on their shareprice,” he added.

Levy shot back with a much more broad denial:

“On August 6, you posted an article on the Drum website stating that “WPP CEO Sorrell ‘challenges the veracity’ of Publicis Groupe’s denial over Interpublic acquisition talks”. I found the content of this article somewhat surprising. A clear statement had been issued by Publicis Groupe that very morning, firmly refuting any involvement or contact with IPG, either directly or indirectly.

He continued; “I personally couldn’t care less about Martin Sorrell, and what he thinks or says about Publicis Groupe is always rubbish. If he is foolish enough to challenge the truth behind the official statement, that’s one thing, but I’m surprised by your decision to grant this preposterous position such importance by featuring it in the columns of your publication’s website.”

Sorrell was also quoted in Ad Age:

“Maurice’s typically articulate response fails to answer the implied question. Has he had talks with Roth and/or IPG or not?”

The Sorrell v. Levy fight is one of the longest-running shows on Broadway, of course. And Sorrell is happy to see the management and investors at both Publicis and Interpublic distracted by second-guessing over the fate of IPG. So we can take this all with a pinch of salt.

There is one thing, however. Levy’s statement paints him into a very tight corner indeed. If Publicis ever did try a merger with Interpublic, then Sorrell’s accusation would come true.


  • Here’s The Interpublic-Publicis Takeover Conspiracy Theory
  • NEVER MIND! Publicis Denies Interpublic Takeover Talks


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