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DAY AFTER GREY BUYOUT, ED MEYER UNLOADS WPP STOCK

With Other Payouts, He Now Has $445 Million in Cash

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ed Meyer decided to take the money and run -- to the bank. Grey Global Group's chairman-CEO unloaded most of his new WPP Group stock barely a day after the British ad firm completed its Grey buyout March 7.
Photo: Pat Denton
Ed Meyer has something to smile about.
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Mr. Meyer isn't leaving just yet. He has a contract to run the Grey Global operation through December 2006. After he steps down as CEO of the Grey Worldwide ad agency -- he has six months to propose a successor -- Mr. Meyer has the option to take a WPP board seat.

Cache of cash
But his immediate issue is to figure out what to do with a cache of cash. Mr. Meyer, 78, and family interests stood to gross more than $400 million in cash and WPP stock on the sale of Grey, including Mr. Meyer's stock, family trusts, a family foundation's shares and stock options that could be converted into WPP stock.

WPP paid for half of Grey shares in cash and half in WPP stock. Assuming that mix, WPP would have paid Mr. Meyer and his family about $165 million cash when the deal closed at 9 p.m. ET March 7, by AdAge.com's analysis. Then Mr. Meyer sold the bulk of his WPP shares for $204 million, according to a Reuters report today confirmed by an individual close to the situation.

Golden parachute
Add in his payout for deferred compensation and supplemental pensions ($53.1 million) and a golden parachute ($22.7 million), and Mr. Meyer today is sitting on $445 million in cash, by AdAge.com's analysis.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Meyer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. A WPP spokesman confirmed Mr. Meyer had sold a significant stake but declined to elaborate on the transaction.

Mr. Meyer does not have to disclose his WPP holding -- until he becomes a director -- so it's difficult to figure out precise holdings. But factor in the value of stock options and remaining shares and it appears Mr. Meyer and family interests still hold about $37 million in WPP stock.

Sale not surprising
The stock sale isn't surprising. During the bidding last summer for New York-based Grey Global, there was strong speculation Mr. Meyer was seeking an offer that would allow him to cash out, a logical move for estate planning. Mr. Meyer was the controlling shareholder in thinly traded Grey, and he and his family didn't have an easy way to cash out. Taking WPP's widely traded shares gave him a ready way to turn his holding into cash. Now Mr. Meyer has nearly completed his conversion of Grey into green.

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