Publicis’ Lévy Decries TN Sale: ‘It’s Cheap’

Publicis’ Lévy Decries TN Sale: ‘It’s Cheap’

CHICAGO—As with most deals made by TN in recent years, Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy was quick to voice his displeasure with the IPG sale.

Lévy late last week was awaiting advice on what options are available to him to secure a better price. Publicis, TN’s largest shareholder, has a 9-percent stake in the network.

The sale is due to be completed this summer after a shareholder vote, in which a simple majority is needed to push ahead. A pooling of interest transaction requires 90 percent of a seller’s shares to be exchanged, but Lévy still doesn’t have the clout to do anything other than possibly muddy some accounting procedures, and then only with the help of confederates. A TN rep said its legal advisers are convinced Lévy and his holdings are, essentially, irrelevant.

While analysts also gave Lévy little chance of getting in the way of the sale, most agree with his assessment that IPG got a bargain.

“It’s cheap,” Lévy sniffed at TN’s price. “It’s the low end of what it should be, which is a good negotiation for IPG.”

Lévy has been a thorn in TN’s side for years, though much of the rancor subsided when Bruce Mason stepped down as CEO in 1999. Their most famous brawl occurred when Lévy tried, unsuccessfully, to scuttle TN’s acquisition of the former Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt a few years ago.

Lévy last week seemed to acknowledge he most likely will not be able to upset the TN/IPG deal. He said he certainly has no intentions of trying to trump IPG’s bid. “I don’t think we will do a lot,” he said. “We are not attracted by TN.”