One of True North’s biggest global clients is attempting to scare
off the Publicis chairman, Maurice Levy, by threatening to pull out more
than dollars 400 million of business should he press ahead with a
hostile takeover bid.
S. C. Johnson, the owner of cleaning brands such as Mr Muscle, Glade and
Brillo, said it would consider splitting with the FCB network, a True
North subsidiary, if Levy gains control.
In a letter to Levy, William Perez, the S. C. Johnson chief executive,
warned his company had ’no interest in seeing any form of reversal’ of
the divorce between Publicis and its former global partner.
The letter’s contents were disclosed as Publicis, True North’s biggest
shareholder, filed a lawsuit in Chicago claiming damages and urging the
court to intervene to prevent True North’s takeover of Bozell, claiming
the deal was not in the interests of True North shareholders.
Publicis executives were this week dismissing the S. C. Johnson
’It changes nothing because it says nothing about the Bozell situation,’
Meanwhile, speculation is mounting that up to 300 jobs may go if the
Bozell deal, to be voted on at a special meeting on 30 December, goes
ahead. In the prospectus-proxy statement posted to shareholders this
week, True North failed to specify the number of job losses but forecast
a possible one-time pre-tax charge of up to dollars 120 million,
including up to dollars 55 million for severance and related costs.
There is also speculation within True North that Levy’s actions are part
of a Publicis power game. Insiders suspect he wishes to accumulate
enough Publicis shares to replace the Bleustein-Blanchet family at the
heart of the group.