Editorial: Staking Aegis is just the beginning for Bollore

The linguistically challenged US president George Bush is famously quoted as saying that "the trouble with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur". What he would make of Vincent Bollore is anybody's guess.

The billionaire Havas chairman, poised to bid for Aegis, isn't easy to label. Entrepreneur? Undoubtedly. Corporate raider? Bollore dislikes this sobriquet, but by investing in companies, forcing through change and exiting with a profit, he's built up a reputation that's hard to live down. France's most powerful media-mogul-in-waiting? Quite possibly.

What is certain is that Bollore brings a new dynamic to the global marketing communications scene. Associates claim his plans will not end with Aegis, and that once his proposed acquisition is bedded in, he will set his sights on Interpublic.

Even more engrossing is how he seems to be the standard bearer for the global aspirations of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose friendship with Bollore goes back 30 years. The link between the Elysee Palace and the country's ad industry has always been close. It's said you could barely move at the 80th birthday party thrown for the late Publicis founder, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, because of the number of former prime ministers who turned up.

But it goes beyond the most public manifestations. At their most intimate level, such relationships give industry leaders the kind of respect and influence undreamt of by their UK counterparts. It's hard to imagine a British adman being asked - as the Publicis Groupe chairman, Maurice Levy, was - to join a group of business leaders invited to Downing Street to discuss Europe's future.

Sarkozy is known to be eager for French companies to be leaders in areas such as banking and telecoms. Will Bollore carry his hopes in marcoms? If so, the sector could have a Gallic centre of gravity in the coming years. Bollore has said he does not see Publicis Groupe or WPP maintaining their potency after Levy and Sir Martin Sorrell, their respective leaders, step down, and that he predicts Omnicom will be his major long-term rival. So it looks like he may be about to show that the endgame in the global consolidation of the communication groups has yet to be played out.

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