Starcom, Publicis, IPG Among GM's Top Unsecured Creditors

Bankrupt Automaker Owes Holding Companies and Their Agencies $166.5 Million

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DETROIT ( -- General Motors Corp.'s bankruptcy filing lists two agency holding companies and two of the agencies they own as owed $166.5 million collectively, ranking them among the automaker's 50 largest unsecured creditors.

According to documents filed in Manhattan today, Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group, Chicago, is sixth on GM's largest creditor list, with a $121 million claim. Starcom handles GM's media planning and buying. The marketer said it also owes Starcom parent Publicis $25 million, which ranked it No. 18 on the list. Publicis' Leo Burnett USA, Troy, Mich., handles GM's Buick, Pontiac and GMC accounts, but the Pontiac brand will be eliminated as part of the bankruptcy plan.

Interpublic Group of Cos., New York, is owed $15.9 million by GM, making it No. 20 in outstanding bills for GM. Interpublic's McCann Erickson, Calgary, Alberta, is in the No. 47 slot, with a $4.6 million unsecured claim. It's unclear why a Canadian office is listed in the U.S. filing as McCann's Birmingham, Mich., office handles GM's corporate and Saab accounts.

Neither Starcom nor Interpublic returned calls by press time.

Interpublic amended its credit agreement in a regulatory filing two weeks ago with lenders in the event that GM, its largest client, filed for bankruptcy. Lenders agreed to allow the holding company to absorb up to $150 million of cash charges and $100 million in non-cash charges as a result of GM's bankruptcy and not violate terms of the credit agreements.

Interpublic generated about 5%, or about $348 million, of its revenue from GM in 2008. Interpublic said in April that its exposure to a GM bankruptcy was in the neighborhood of $150 million.

Standing by the client
Publicis Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy told Advertising Age in April that GM accounts for slightly more than 3% of the holding company's 2008 and 2009 global revenue, implying that the automaker accounted for just over $207 million last year. He strongly asserted that Publicis was standing by and supporting its third-largest client in these difficult times.

GM is readying a confidence-boosting ad campaign that could break within days. It's not clear whether President Barack Obama, speaking to the press later today from Washington, or GM CEO Fritz Henderson, who will speak from New York, will address plans for that campaign.

GM has apparently bought the search term "GM bankruptcy." A Google search using that term turns up a sponsored link that states, "GM -- We Will Emerge: Yes, We've Filed. However, Service & Warranties will Still be Honored."

Meanwhile, the judge overseeing Chrysler's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case approved the carmaker's sale of itself to a "new" Chrysler, owned by the U.S. and Canadian governments, the United Auto Workers union and Italian automaker Fiat.

"The decision by Judge Gonzalez of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to approve the Chrysler sale transaction paves the way for the new Chrysler to successfully emerge from bankruptcy as a new, stronger, more competitive company for the future," Mr. Obama said today in a statement. "Only a month ago, this great American company's very future was in doubt. Now, as a result of a substantial commitment by the U.S. government and tough sacrifices from all stakeholders involved, Chrysler has a new lease on life. We said this process would be completed quickly and efficiently, and that's exactly what has been accomplished today."

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