standing alone, such as current leader WPP, U.S.-based Interpublic, France's Havas and Japan's Dentsu.
Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, said the pressure for rivals to respond will be great. "It's an extremely bold, brave and surprising move," Sorrell said in an interview on Sunday. "Further consolidation of our industry is inevitable."
'ALMOST AS A JOKE'
It all began when Levy casually mentioned the idea of a merger to Omnicom CEO John Wren at a social event in New York about six months ago. "I said it almost as a joke, but then once we each went back and reflected, it didn't seem so crazy," Levy said at a press conference at Publicis headquarters.
The two executives later brought in Rothschild Group to advise Publicis and Moelis & Company for Omnicom, choosing independent firms instead of larger banks in part to try to prevent leaks.
But when thorny issues cropped up in the talks, Wren and Levy settled things in one-to-one phone calls, the two men said. In the last 10 days leading up to the deal bankers, lawyers and principals were basically in lockdown hammering out details, a source familiar with the matter said.
The new company - Publicis Omnicom - will be traded in New York and Paris. It will overtake WPP and have combined sales of nearly $23 billion and 130,000 employees. It brings together Publicis brands such as Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett with Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide and DDB Worldwide.
The French and U.S. company said shareholders in Publicis and Omnicom would each hold about 50 percent of the new company's equity. Wren and Levy will jointly lead the new company for the first 30 months, then Levy will become non-executive chairman and Wren CEO.
The two veteran CEOs even chose the neutral territory of the Netherlands for the new holding company.
Yet questions remain whether the equal nature of the marriage will stand the test of time. Pierre Ferragu, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Research, said it could take a few years to see if the cultures of Publicis and Omnicom would blend together or if fissures appear in the so-called