Top CIA player confirms sale of 15 per cent stake

Speculation is growing over who will buy Marco Benatti’s stake in the CIA Group, following confirmation that the second biggest shareholder is selling.

Interpublic has held talks with CIA Group vice-chairman Benatti, as revealed exclusively in Marketing Week (September 6).

The talks are thought to have been inconclusive and he is now looking elsewhere. Logically, a large agency network might be interested in building up a stake. However, the CIA share price is considered high.

Benatti is selling his 14.6 per cent share in the publicly-quoted company but says he will retain his current roles with the group. However, his role and shareholding is believed to feature in a board restructure that chairman Chris Ingram plans to announce next week.

“I’d like to reduce my stake in CIA, for personal reasons,” says Benatti.

CIA has 41 million shares in issue, of which Ingram owns more than 12.3 million – a 30 per cent interest in the company he set up in 1976.

It is understood Benatti’s decision to sell stemmed from arguments he had with Ingram over strategy. These relate to the issue of investment in major and minor countries in Europe, as well as CIA’s commitment to expansion in the Far East. Benatti admits the group’s plans to restructure had given rise to “differences of opinion”.

“This does not imply any rift within the company. Although we are presently making decisions about future strategies and about our management structure,” says Benatti.

“No sale has been arranged and I do not intend to negotiate with Interpublic,” he adds.

Benatti says he will remain as the group’s vice-chairman and will continue to run CIA’s Italian operation.

See Cover Story, page 40

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