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Sir Martin Sorrell: Bolloré and Havas is the most fascinating thing going on in our industry today

Sir Martin Sorrell has seemingly praised the strategic decsions of Yannick and Vincent Bolloré, the former of which is chief executive of Havas, saying the model of consolidation they've created is “the most fascinating thing going on in our industry at the moment.”

Sir Martin, not known for applauding rivals, made the comments at Advertising Week Europe where he discussed the “tough” market conditions he's facing. The WPP chief has previously warned that the industry will see more consolidation on brand, media and agency fronts due as a direct result of the lack of topline growth companies are chasing.

While he sees the current models of consolidation as “pretty standard” across the industry, the “unique” efforts of the Bolloré family has caught his attention.

“You have Bolloré Investissement, the family investment company which controls a 63 per cent of a media and creative agency [Havas]. At the same time through its investment in Vivendi, [Bolloré] has become a media owner through Canal+ in France, which now has an agreement with Media Set in Italy - Berlusconi’s premium paid TV operation - and Universal Music. And he has, effectively, a controlling stake in Telecom Italia, a telecoms platform,” said Sir Martin.

“And [there’s] a lot of speculation that he might jettison the telecoms network in Italy to the government, and if he does he’ll become a telecoms operator. And he’s bought a number of Italian production companies.”

The Bolloré Goup last year upped its investment in Vivendi, which owns Universal Music Group and Canal+, to take a 10.2 per cent stake in the business and become its biggest shareholder.

Meanwhile, Vivendi – where Vincent Bollore [Yannick’s father] is chairman - raised its stake in Telecom Italia to just under 25 per cent.

“I find it fascinating example of someone who owns media, content and a telecoms platform, and an agency. It’s never been done before,” continued Sir Martin.

While taking a slight jibe in flagging that there is “all sorts of potential for conflict of interest” he applauded that Bolloré is unifying “in a seemingly serendipitous way” all of those sectors.

Writing for The Drum, Andrew Moss - a partner at Green Square, corporate finance advisors to the media and marketing sector - said the move is all about building up the advertising group in such a way that it is less exposed to global events outside its control.

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