Saudi Prince takes stake in Cordiant

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LONDON -- The Saudi investor who helped Euro Disney avoid bankruptcy has acquired a 3% stake in Cordiant, the marketing group which owns the Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising agency network.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's investment in Cordiant, valued at about $27.5m, is a major vote of confidence in Cordiant's ambitions to split into three operations. The break-up will lead to stock exchange listings in London and New York for Saatchi & Saatchi and its sister network Bates Worldwide. Both will jointly own Zenith Media Worldwide, Cordiant's media buying operation. "Cordiant's existing shareholders will own shares in the [reorganized] Saatchi & Bates," says a Cordiant spokesman.

Prince Alwaleed has been committing his cash particularly to business ventures needing restructuring or a change in management to boost their value. He acquired more than 20% of Euro Disney, Paris, just as the theme park's shares were spiraling downwards and new management was brought in to revive shareholders' confidence and prevent its collapse.

In December 1996, he bought the George V Hotel in Paris from U.K.-based media and catering giant Granada Group, which decided to sell non-core properties belonging to the Forte hotel empire it acquired last year.

The financially troubled Apple Computer also benefited from the prince's largesse in April when he took a 5%-plus stake. The management structure at Apple, currently trounced by rivals, especially in the personal computer market, was recently overhauled. This included inviting one of the company's original founders, the charismatic Steve Jobs, back to the board of directors as an advisor.

The prince's investment in Cordiant will equally be considered a positive move. He is a client of Saatchi & Saatchi's Middle East operation and this latest move demonstrates his confidence in the network's new direction within the proposed reorganization.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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