The war of words over the future ownership of research company Taylor Nelson Sofres has hotted up, with the chief executives of rival suitors WPP Group and GfK accusing each other of adopting “morally reprehensible” tactics.
“GfK chief executive Klaus Wubbenhorst, whom I have the highest regard for, accuses me of being morally reprehensible,” says WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell (pictured). “But it is surely him who is being morally reprehensible in misleading his employees about potential job losses in Germany if the GfK-TNS deal goes through
He was responding to an earlier statement by Wubbenhorst that said: “WPP is deliberately using anxiety tactics, particularly against our colleagues, and this is morally extremely irresponsible.”
Sorrell says: “It seems to us that the level of synergies GfK and TNS are claiming, of €102m (£80m) by year three of their proposed merger, are very high and must mean significant unemployment in Nuremberg, where GfK is based.
“It is a critical issue in Germany, because there are elections coming up and politicians in Bavaria are concerned about unemployment,” he adds.
Sorrell claims that TNS and WPP’s own research arm, Kantar, offer a better fit than GfK and TNS. This is vigorously denied by GfK and TNS, which has rejected an upwardly revised WPP share offer in cash and shares.
Donald Brydon, chairman of TNS, says: “The board met today and had no hesitation in rejecting this revised proposal, which substantially undervalues the company.”