MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: The takeover saga that ended in a trio of Pyrrhic victories

As the dust settles on the mess that is the WPP/Tempus affair,

let's posit this question: can you have a contest in which all the

protagonists experience a Pyrrhic victory? Ordinarily, I'd say such an

idea was a contradiction in terms, but this is an exception.



Havas may have withdrawn from the bid (making some money in the process

by selling out to WPP's higher offer), and therefore emerged financially

unscathed. But its aim of building a credible media offering on the

foundations of Media Planning Group has been stymied. Some soul

searching and nifty footwork is required before it can move on again, if

indeed it can.



WPP - let's say Sir Martin Sorrell since this was an intensely personal

affair - may have won Tempus, but lost his battle with the Takeover

Panel to withdraw and is therefore forced to pay a price - £437

million - he deems too high. Confucius' words, "Be careful what you wish

for; it may come true", could be inscribed on the WPP boardroom table as

a warning to all.



Last, we have Tempus' chairman, Chris Ingram, who in order to fulfil his

fiduciary duty, was in the apparently contrary position of fighting to

be taken over by someone he didn't want to be taken over by. Weird,

eh?



That is not to say there are no winners. According to Tempus' annual

report, at least 200 staff have share incentive schemes that account for

12 per cent of Tempus' equity. In crude terms, that means those 200 are

cumulatively £52.5 million richer today than they were ten days

ago. Some will go, of course, but those who stay may also find

themselves winners in the career stakes. That is because, in any merger

with Group Media Edge, they have every chance of taking the whip hand.

That being so, they will find themselves playing with a significantly

bigger train set than would otherwise have been the case.



As for Ingram, does it really make sense to describe someone who walks

away with £62 million as a loser? If you believe, as I do with the

utmost conviction, that for Ingram the money has only ever been a way of

keeping the score, not an end in itself - then it does.



I bumped into Ingram at a social function 36 hours after the Panel

rejected WPP's appeal. The backslappers were all over him with

congratulations.



His somewhat rueful demeanour, however, said it all. He may have "won",

but he's lost his life's work. That Tempus ever became a £430

million business is down to his passion, vision, obsession with the

business, sheer pig-headed obstinacy and determination to steer the

course he felt right. If that sounds familiar, well, they are the

qualities he shares with his opponent in this saga, Sorrell.



And therein lies the supreme irony. Sorrell and Ingram have much more in

common than they do different. They just failed to see it.



- Claire Beale's son now has a name - Emerson.



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