More top managers quit 141 as Cordiant finale draws closer

Cordiant has been hit by further resignations by top managers at 141, its integrated marketing specialist, regarded as a prize capture for the beleaguered communications group's bidders.

The defections include Patrick Hanson-Lowe, who has been with the group since 1994 and had been running 141's £18 million Allied Domecq business, and Marcus Starke, 141's head of Europe. Last week, Colin Hearn, 141's chief executive, confirmed he was quitting.

The news emerged as Cordiant's shares were delisted from the London Stock Exchange, setting the stage for the final act in the struggle for control of the company.

Provided Cordiant isn't forced into administration, the endgame will be played out next Wednesday when shareholders will vote on the rival proposals from Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP and the investment fund Active Value.

Meanwhile, Active Value has announced that Richard Wheatly, the former Leo Burnett chairman, will not be part of its proposed Cordiant management team.

The delisting halts any lingering hopes Publicis Groupe might have had of buying the 25 per cent of ZenithOptimedia it doesn't already own for a knockdown price. Publicis is obliged to pay £75 million for the stake unless there is a change of control at Cordiant.

Publicis this week attempted to kill off speculation about its intentions by insisting it was not involved in any attempt to gain control of Cordiant.

Cordiant shareholders must decide whether WPP's £266 million bid should be accepted or whether to back a plan by Active Value, now holding 28 per cent of Cordiant shares, to inject cash and install a new management team.