Judge halts Levy’s True North attack

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 North.

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

North.



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

bin.



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.’



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