Down to the Wire

True North acquisition talks heated up again late last week after the company resolved a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry, with Interpublic Group emerg ing as the front-runner to buy the Chicago-based holding company.

“There is action, but there’s no resolution,” one executive said late Friday at press time. “Something could happen this weekend, but it’s still up in the air.”

On Friday, TN’s stock price closed up almost $2 while the rest of the market tanked, heightening speculation that one of the three bidders pursuing the Chi cago-based holding company was close to inking a deal.

Earlier, the WPP Group had been added to the list of potential buyers, which, in addition to IPG, include Havas, sources said.

Executives from Paris-based Havas, whose interest had previously cooled, were said to be in town last week to meet with TN executives, sources said.

WPP Group’s Martin Sorrell is thought to be considering using TN’s FCB to bolster his struggling Young & Rubicam network, sources said.

An agreement on a deal could be reached as soon as today, but sources cautioned on Friday that that could change. “Meetings could take place over the weekend that could resolve the issue one way or the other.”

A TN representative declined to comment, as did those from the other companies.

TN last week resolved an issue with the SEC over how it amortized goodwill from acquisitions, agree- ing to reduce the period from 40 years to 20. That allowed it to release fourth-quarter and year-end oper ating results (see Newswire on page 44).