WHAT THE MEDIA SAY: WPP Tempus bid a field day for the media

Organisation: WPP

Issue: Tempus takeover

The media came out with all guns blazing at the news that WPP, the

world's largest advertising and marketing group, was trying to 'wriggle

out' (Daily Express, 13/10) of its takeover bid for smaller rival

Tempus. The saga had 'all the twists and turns of a mafia saga'

according to The Daily Telegraph (12/10).

Nobody could have foreseen the terror atrocities of 11 September, but

less than three weeks after the £437m bid was accepted, WPP chief

executive Sir Martin Sorrell announced an attempt to 'ditch Tempus'

(Daily Express, 13/10) as the shares slumped to well below the bid

price. The 'already faltering advertising market had been pushed off a

cliff', said The Independent (11/10).

Sorrell argued the subsequent fall in shares and diminished trading

prospects of Tempus following the attacks amounted to a 'material

adverse change' (MAC) - an obscure get-out clause rarely, if ever,

invoked - since the original offer.

Despite his oft-quoted statement that he was convinced about the

strategic merits of the merger, he was determined to convince the

Takeover Panel it should no longer go ahead on that basis.

This would be the 'first time ... that the MAC law had been tested in

this way' (thedeal. com, 15/10) and the media were waiting with baited

breath on the outcome of 'Stock Market history in the making' (Evening

Standard, 13/10).

The question of whether WPP would be successful in its plea to the

Takeover Panel divided analysts. Many considered it unlikely, but Neil

Carter, an analyst at Dutch Investment bank ABN Amro, gained creditable

column inches with his statement: 'If war isn't a "material change" I

don't know what is' (Independent on Sunday, 14/10).

Few had kind words about Sorrell, or 'Mack the Knife' as The Daily

Telegraph (12/10) described him. He had become a 'weasel to Tempus

shareholders' according to thedeal.com (15/10) and Jason Nisse wrote

that he had started 'wriggling like a landed salmon' (Independent on

Sunday, 13/10).

Industry insiders would have chuckled at The Guardian's (3/10) comment

that Tempus chairman Chris Ingram, his long-term adversary, would be

'delighted if he paid too much for the company', a charge rarely

levelled at Sorrell over the years.

Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found

at: www.echoResearch.com.

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