And the domination game goes on

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Okay, so it's still a hypothetical-and strongly denied by Maurice Levy-but what if Publicis were to merge with Interpublic?

Well, the combined company would have estimated revenue of $11.8 billion based on 2006 results. That'd put "InterPublicis," as one analyst christened it, ahead of Omnicom (estimated '06 revenue: $11.3 billion) and WPP (estimated '06: $10.8 billion).

But even then, the game of who's on first would be far from over. Merrill Lynch projects Omnicom will have 2007 revenue north of $12 billion, and WPP's Martin Sorrell is always prowling for deals.

Publicis was a second-tier player as recently as 1999, when it had revenue of just $1.1 billion, two-thirds of it in Europe.

Publicis, founded by 20-year-old Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, started in Paris in 1926 and opened a New York office in 1957. Publicis hired Maurice Levy in 1971 to run its computer department.

Publicis' global ambitions took off when Mr. Levy, now 64, became chairman-CEO. Publicis entered an ambitious global alliance with Foote, Cone & Belding in 1988. It proved rocky; the partnership ended badly in 1995 due to "strategic divergences."

That changed when Publicis SA bought the U.K.'s Saatchi & Saatchi in 2000 for $1.8 billion, creating Publicis Groupe. In 2002, Publicis bought Bcom3 Group ( Leo Burnett, D'Arcy) for $2.2 billion in stock, convertible bonds and warrants, moving Publicis up to the No. 4 agency holding company.

Publicis has mulled other deals since swallowing Bcom3. It dropped out of the 2004 auction for Grey Global Group, acquired by WPP Group for $1.75 billion. In September 2005, Publicis disclosed exploratory talks with Aegis Group but a month later opted not to make an offer.
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