Boss of WPP's Kantar in talks over $4.8 billion buyout of unit, Times says

LONDON (Reuters) - The boss of Kantar, the data and market research division of advertising giant WPP WPP.L, has been sounding out backers for a potential 3.5 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) management buyout of the unit, The Times reported.

Without citing sources, the newspaper said Eric Salama has been in talks with banks and private equity firms since Martin Sorrell stood down as WPP chief executive two weeks ago.

Sorrell’s exit after 33 years triggered speculation that WPP could be broken up.

The Times said Salama would ideally want the WPP businesses to remain together but would be keen to lead a buyout if investors push for the sale of Kantar.

A spokesman for WPP said executive chairman Roberto Quarta, and co-chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott are reviewing the group’s strategy.

“It is too early to speculate about specific asset sales. In the meantime, it has been made clear that they don’t believe breaking up the group makes sense,” he said.

WPP will on Monday publish first quarter results - its first set of numbers since Sorrell quit.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Robin Pomeroy