CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; BDDP and Grey deny merger

John Tylee reports on the two agencies’ reaction to rumours about a merger

John Tylee reports on the two agencies’ reaction to rumours about a


Is BDDP about to abandon impecunious spinsterhood in favour of a

headlong rush to the altar and the strong, muscular arms of the well

endowed Grey International?

For the moment, BDDP refuses to be cast in the bridal role. ‘Absolutely

untrue,’ is the reaction of Jean-Claude Boulet, BDDP’s chairman, to the

speculation (Campaign, last week).

Grey, too, eschews marriage talk, even though the pair are believed to

have spoken in the past about working together.

‘There’s no good reason for us to merge with BDDP, but for BDDP there

are hundreds of reasons,’ a senior Grey management source explains.

‘We’re the world’s sixth largest network and almost number one in the

US. We’ve got dollars 100 million in cash and no borrowings. We’re well

enough placed without having to fork out for a network that’s highly

leveraged and clearly in some trouble.’

True or not, it’s obvious BDDP can’t go on as it is. Virtually under the

ownership of financial institutions since a debt for equity swap, it is

hard to see how it will achieve the kind of turnaround needed to satisfy

those who control it.

BDDP’s problem is that while it has a very well-established business

within France - Europe’s third largest advertising market - it has

little of substance elsewhere.

Moreover, attempts to establish firm footholds in key world markets have

not exactly been an unqualified success.

In the UK, where its unsuccessful hostile 1989 bid for the then BMP

Davidson Pearce provoked the most acrimonious takeover battle in British

advertising history, BDDP has had to settle for a minority shareholding

in an agency created by the merger of Bainsfair Sharkey Trott and Miller

and Leeves WAHT.

In the US, Wells Rich Greene, the agency it acquired five years ago for

dollars 30 million, was one of only four top 30 US shops to show a gross

income drop in 1994. A new top management line-up may signal changes,


Whether or not BDDP will eventually fall into bed with Grey is

debatable. Grey sources discount suggestions that BDDP could provide a

way of bolstering the network’s Procter and Gamble business and it’s

true that P&G takes a dim view of being used as an agency bargaining


However, BDDP may have one big attraction for Grey: a youthful and high-

calibre management. As Ed Meyer, the Grey chairman, nears 70 with no

obvious successor in sight, might the world’s highest paid adman be

looking to get his money out and the next generation of management in?

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