Grey CEO re-ups

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Is Ed Meyer getting ready to go-and getting ready to sell?

The president-CEO-chairman of Grey Global Group has received the shortest employment extension since he signed his current contract in 1984, raising questions about what's next for Grey and whether the 74-year-old plans to retire.

In a quarterly report filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Grey disclosed details showing Mr. Meyer had extended his term-meant to expire Dec. 31, 2002-until Dec. 31, 2004. That extension is minuscule compared with the previous seven-year terms since Mr. Meyer signed his 1984 contract. In 1990, Grey's board extended Mr. Meyer's contract until 1997 and in 1995 he reupped until 2002.

An industry veteran close to the Grey chairman said the extra two years is about as long as it would take to get a deal done.

Grey officials downplayed the importance of the contract, saying it did not imply Mr. Meyer was planning his retirement. Mr. Meyer said through a spokeswoman it was his call to expand his contract two years beyond its expiration date.

Mr. Meyer, who joined Grey in 1956 and became CEO in 1971, is credited with building the agency from a small shop to a global holding company. He has been richly compensated with company stock for his success, and his hoard of stock is seen by observers as the main hurdle to a sale. He controls the majority of voting stock through his own stake and his position in the trust that controls the shares held by Grey's employees. Mr. Meyer has also pointedly not announced a clear succession plan.

Even if Mr. Meyer were to retire, it would likely make no difference in his sway over the company, noted Abe Jones, managing director of AdMedia Partners, a New York investment bank. Mr. Meyer is a large Grey shareholder on his own, and "no one can make a deal he doesn't want to do," Mr. Jones said.

On his own, Mr. Meyer owns 49.6% of Grey's Class B stock, 10.1% of its common stock and all of the company's preferred stock.

"He would still exert great influence," Mr. Jones said. "My guess is, as long as he's still actively interested in the company as a shareholder, he will have a say."

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