VINCENT BOLLORE IN TALKS WITH RIVAL FOR AEGIS

Exploring Partnership with WPP, Hellman to Acquire Media Agency

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As a Nov. 25 deadline nears for WPP Group and private equity firm Hellman & Friedman to "put up or shut up" in their potential pursuit of Aegis Group, French investor Vincent Bollore is in talks with WPP and Hellman & Friedman about collaborating on a deal for the London-based media company, according to an executive familiar with the situation.

Vincent Bollore is in talks with WPP and Hellman & Friedman about collaborating on an Aegis deal.
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Meanwhile Vincent Bollore Ups Stake to 14.7%

Mr. Bollore, who is also chairman of French ad company Havas and holds a 23.8% stake in that company, has a 24.99% interest in Aegis, making him the company's single-largest shareholder. In one possible scenario under discussion, Mr. Bollore would partner with WPP and Hellman & Friedman to create a consortium that would bid for Aegis.

$2.75 billion
According to the executive, the consortium would offer approximately $2.75 billion for the publicly traded company. WPP would offer $600 million in cash for Synovate, Aegis' market research unit. The remaining media buying-and-planning entity would go private, and Mr. Bollore would be the largest shareholder; Hellman & Friedman the second largest, while WPP would have a minority stake.

Mr. Bollore could not be reached for comment. A WPP spokesman declined to comment and Hellman & Friedman did not return calls at press time.

The executive said Mr. Bollore wants more time for due diligence before making a formal offer. However, if Mr. Bollore teams with WPP and Hellman & Friedman, he would be bound to the Nov. 25 deadline, which was set by the U.K.'s Takeover Panel at the request of Aegis. If WPP and Hellman & Friedman opt not to make an offer by Nov. 25, they are precluded from making an offer for six months. To extend the deadline, the Takeover Panel requires a request for an extension from Aegis.

No offer on the table
With no offer on the table, an Aegis spokeswoman today said, "People have had plenty of time in this process so far and absent a firm and deliverable offer that represents value for our shareholders, it is hard to understand why there should be any further time needed."

Interest in Aegis, the largest remaining independent media company, began in August, when Mr. Bollore began buying shares. His buying has garnered considerable interest for several reasons, including his reputation as a maverick shareholder with a habit of buying into companies and pushing for management change (he managed to oust longtime Havas Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac this summer and gain four seats on the company's board after months of public tussle). His holding in Aegis reached 24.99% Nov. 8. Any shareholder who owns 30% of a U.K. company is required to make a formal takeover bid.

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