WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell blasts Publicis and Omnicom merger deal

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell today mocked advertising rivals Publicis and Omnicom over the tax problems with their delayed mega-merger, saying “it’s turning into a soap opera”.

He said clients were reacting to the uncertainty as his company won nearly £1 billion in new billings in April alone. Revenues in the first three months of the year jumped 7% on a like-for-like basis — ahead of growth at Publicis and Omnicom.

WPP shrugged off sterling’s recent strength as sales rose 1.5% on a reported basis to £2.57 billion.

Advertising is seen as a bellwether of the economy and the UK was strong as revenues climbed 10.7%.

Last July Maurice Levy, boss of France’s Publicis, and John Wren, head of America’s Omnicom, announced merger plans to create the world’s largest advertising group, overtaking WPP, but they have had to admit in recent days that it is taking longer than expected to persuade regulators in France, the UK, the Netherlands and China.

Sorrell told the Evening Standard: “It’s turning into a soap opera. Clearly John Wren and Maurice Levy are unhappy with each other. If you listen to the two first-quarter conference calls, it was like two ships passing in the night. Levy said there was only one tax problem — with the French. Wren a couple of days later contradicted him.”

The WPP boss suggested doubts about the tie-up have increased. “Both companies have said if they merge, it’ll be fine and if they don’t merge, it’ll be fine. The PR positioning has dramatically changed.”

Sorrell added that WPP, owner of agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and AKQA, had enjoyed a “surge” in new business wins partly as a result of the merger uncertainty, as clients “react” to the changing landscape.

Just in April, WPP picked up almost £1 billion in billings by winning Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, Compare The Market and Pepsi in China.

Publicis said earlier this week that it was still “confident” of winning regulatory approval for a deal in which the combined company would be registered in the Netherlands and resident in the UK for tax purposes.

However, some analysts believe that both Dutch and UK regulators have raised questions, against a background of  tax avoidance shooting up the political agenda.

Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments