Agencies line up as Grey Global chief Meyer sparks sale talk

The agency world was awash with speculation this week that the much anticipated next round of global consolidation might be underway.

Reports that Ed Meyer, chief executive and chairman of Grey Global Group, has hired investment banker Goldman Sachs to look into a possible sale have met with frenzied share activity and equally frenzied talk about who may try to buy it.

Publicis Groupe, Japanese giant Dentsu and WPP are all said to be interested in snapping up the giant among supergiants.

The parent company of the UK’s largest media agency, Mediacom, and the Grey creative network merely added fuel to the fire when it refused to comment when contacted by Media Week.

There would be no shortage of interested parties should the legendary Meyer, who has a controlling stake in the network, order a sale.

Among them would be WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, who earlier this year told Media Week of his admiration of the achievements of Meyer and described the 77-year-old as “immortal”.

The fact that Meyer might be human came to light in an interview in the Financial Times last week, however, when he said that one day he would leave Grey.

He was quoted as saying: “There are three reasons I would leave: There is no more to be done; I am no longer productive; or the agency is not doing well and since I’m the leader, I ought to take the fall. None of these has happened yet, but one of the them will.”

WPP is in a strong financial position – at its AGM yesterday the network reported a revenue increase of nearly six per cent, with its advertising and media investment management division showing a 14% rise.

It would not be alone in coveting the Grey Global line-up, however, should Meyer not fulfil expectations of immortality.

Havas, the sixth-largest network and keen to shore up its defences against a possible takeover, has been talked about in the past as a potential merger partner.

However, with P&G being Grey’s biggest client, Publicis would no doubt see the potential of increasing its hold on the FMCG giant’s business.

Many have previously predicted that this year will see the last great phase of consolidation among the agency networks, with Grey one of three big firms seen as most vulnerable.

Constant speculation has also surrounded the future of Havas and just last week senior industry figures told Media Week that Aegis was vulnerable because of its lack of strength in the US although Aegis European chief executive Jerry Buhlmann was bullish about its ability to continue competing on a global scale.

Grey’s share value soared to an all-time high last week, even before reports of Meyer approaching bankers became public.

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