The parent of the embattled J. Walter Thompson advertising agency said Wednesday that its directors will meet either today or Friday to consider "one or more" takeover proposals.
The announcement by JWT Group came after one unhappy suitor, London-based WPP Group, made good on its threat to launch a campaign to replace JWT's 11 directors with six WPP nominees, reducing the size of the board.
WPP told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was making the move "since the company's board . . . had not accepted WPP's ($50.50 a share) proposal and had not announced that the company was considering a more favorable transaction."
Investment analysts who follow the advertising industry didn't think WPP would succeed in ousting the board. "This is just another move in the cat and mouse game between WPP and JWT," said Charles Crane, an analyst with the Prudential-Bache Securities firm in New York. "JWT seems to be doing all it can to delay things, and WPP is trying to force them to act."
WPP, a leading marketing services firm in Britain, started the takeover drama for JWT June 10 with a $45-a-share bid that was rejected by JWT's directors. WPP said it would pay more if a friendly deal could be worked out.
JWT wouldn't identify any potential suitors. As previously reported, MCA, a Los Angeles entertainment firm, owns half of a company that has been purchasing JWT stock. Also, Merrill Lynch, a New York investment house, is trying to arrange a management buyout, according to an SEC filing by WPP.
In a telephone interview from London Wednesday, John Wood, a British advertising executive, said he has discussed a management buyout with four JWT executives, but he would not name them. He said his firm, Trilateral Communications, was "close to making an offer."
JWT stock closed at $52.125 a share, down 12.5 cents in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange.