Battle for control destroyed $35-billion Omnicom-Publicis merger

Fri May 9, 2014 10:57am EDT
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By Anjuli Davies, Soyoung Kim and Leila Abboud

LONDON/NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) - The $35-billion merger of U.S.-based Omnicom and France's Publicis collapsed on Friday after a battle for control destroyed plans to create the world's largest advertising agency.

The deal, heralded in July as a merger of equals that would enable the two agencies to compete more effectively in the digital arena, foundered on issues ranging from its complex tax structure to the firms' divergent cultures.

The two sides were also losing major work - more than $1.5 billion in the past month alone - and did not want to let the uncertainty continue.

"I have not been able to convince John that balance is balance," Publicis Chief Executive Maurice Levy said of his Omnicom counterpart, John Wren.

"Omnicom wanted their people to fill the CEO, CFO and general counsel jobs," he told Reuters. "I thought that went too far. I was not ready to cede on this point."

For his part, Wren said the two sides had failed to find a way past the strong corporate cultures that existed in each company.

"There was no one factor," Wren, 61, told Reuters.

"There are a lot of complex issues we haven't resolved. There are strong corporate cultures in both companies that delayed us for reaching an agreement. There was no clear finish line in sight, and uncertainty is never a good thing when you are in the personal service business."   Continued...

Maurice Levy (L) , French advertising group Publicis Chief executive, and John Wren, head of Omnicom Group react during a joint news conference in Paris, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann