A judge in the US has ordered a temporary halt to attempts by
Maurice Levy, the chairman of Publicis, to torpedo the takeover of
Bozell by his former global partner, True North. The move, if made
permanent, would effectively scupper Publicis’s own bid for True
The Northern District of Illinois judge, Joan Gottschall, granted True
North a temporary restraining order on Tuesday evening which prevents
Levy from hampering the Bozell deal while the case is more fully
considered over the next two weeks.
The order is the latest development in the battle between the two
networks, which has grown ever dirtier with allegations of illicit
approaches by Publicis to True North directors and demands by Publicis
that a US court hear Levy’s claims that his Chicago hotel rooms were
entered and sensitive information taken.
The Publicis suit against True North claims that between the middle of
1995 and the middle of last year an intruder gained entry to Levy’s
hotel and obtained sensitive information by taking paper from his waste
The group is demanding disclosure of any information True North may have
and also on the activities of two private investigation firms allegedly
probing Levy’s activities.
A True North spokesman said current legal proceedings prevented comment
on the latest suit, but indicated it would be strongly contested.
Levy mounted a formal bid for control of True North late last week,
offering to buy 38 per cent of its shares at dollars 28 a share, an
action which could put True North into play.
Bruce Mason, the chairman of True North, has responded with a letter to
shareholders urging them ’not to act hastily’ but to wait until the True
North board has had time to consider the offer from Publicis, True
North’s largest shareholder.
In the allegations before Judge Gottschall, True North queries the role
in the dispute of Ali Wambold, a partner in Lazard Freres, a corporate
merger specialist, who is a Levy nominee on True North’s board.
Its lawsuit accuses Wambold of violating his fiduciary duties by phoning
three True North directors with a promise that they would play an
important role in a combined True North-Publicis operation.
However, Publicis executives were insisting this week that Wambold had
done nothing improper. ’It’s bullshit,’ said one. ’All Wambold did was
tell the directors that Levy’s action was nothing personal and that he
held them in high regard.’