Tempus frayed as its chief says he'll quit

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The Independent Online

Chris Ingram, chairman and chief executive of Tempus Group, has told colleagues that he will quit the media- buying group if its 22 per cent shareholder WPP launches a bid.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, is expected to decide this week whether to make a rival offer to the £425m agreed bid from French group Havas which Tempus accepted last month.

If he bids, it will bring to the boil a simmering row between the two media moguls which stretches back four years to when WPP first bought a 15 per cent stake in Tempus from a disaffected former director.

Sir Martin then increased his group's stake, overtaking Mr Ingram to become the largest shareholder in the media-buying company.

Earlier this year WPP bought further shares, taking its stake up to 22 per cent. The move led to speculation that WPP would launch a bid.

However all it did was prompt a number of companies which had been thinking about Tempus to approach it. Only one of these "talks about talks" led to an offer – the 541p a share bid by Havas.

This bid – a near 50 per cent premium to the Tempus share price and a multiple of 38 times Tempus' earnings last year – was recommended by the Tempus board. Mr Ingram voted his 16 per cent stake in favour and agreed a two-year deal to stay on with Havas until he is 60.

However he has made it clear he would not be so accommodating if WPP bids.

Mr Ingram is understood not to like Sir Martin, although the two have only met a handful of times. "We have no personal relationship," he says. "However our management styles are totally different."

Mr Ingram has made it clear to friends that he would not work for Sir Martin and would quit the company if WPP bought Tempus.

He has not made this public because of the fiduciary duty of directors to shareholders to get the best offer.

However Mr Ingram's departure would be unlikely to concern Sir Martin. He is more concerned with retaining the services of Mainardo de Nardis, the Italian executive who runs the group's main business, CIA Medianetwork.

WPP has been given access to all the documents given to Havas to allow it to make its agreed bid. It is expected that if WPP makes a counter offer it will launch its bid this week.

Sir martin has said that he is currently "pounding the calculator" working through the number for an offer. Most in the market expect him to make a bid worth in the region of 575p a share. Tempus shares closed at 569.5p on Friday.

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