It's a Publicis puzzle at Cordiant

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The Independent Online

In another dramatic twist in the Cordiant saga, a senior executive at the troubled advertising group has quit, apparently to join Publicis, the French group that has just withdrawn from the bid battle for Cordiant.

Colin Hearn, who has been with what is now Cordiant for 18 years and ran its integrated marketing business, 141, resigned last week and is expected to join Publicis.

There he will run the Allied Domecq advertising account. The drinks group's decision to ditch Cordiant in favour of Publicis was a key factor in the current crisis.

The group has been teetering on the brink of insolvency for the past few months but has attracted at least four potential suitors.

Only one, Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP Group, has made an offer, though another, UK Active Value, has built up a 28.75 per cent stake in the group.

The waters have been muddied by the purchase of a 10.75 per cent holding by Nahed Ojjeh, a Syrian-born chess tycoon living in Paris. Ms Ojjeh, who has declined to comment on her investment, is also a shareholder in Publicis. However, Publicis denied on Friday that it had spoken to Mrs Ojjeh or that it is any longer interested in making an offer for Cordiant.

WPP has bought up a majority of Cordiant's debts and the group has made it clear that, if shareholders reject its £10m bid for the ailing adverting group, it will merely force Cordiant into administration.

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