Andrew Benett, global CEO of Havas Creative Group and Havas Worldwide, is stepping down from his post after 13 years with the group, effective immediately.
Yannick Bolloré, chairman and CEO of Havas Group, will take on Mr. Benett's role of global chief executive for Havas Creative Group. A company statement described the move as planned, but it was unexpected by outsiders at a minimum.
"We are well on our way to realizing our goal of being the most integrated and innovative communications group of our industry," Mr. Bolloré said in the statement. "I would like to thank Andrew for the fantastic job he has done in implementing our 'Together' strategy and building the organization to what it is today, as well as the impact he has made throughout Havas over the last 13 years. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
Mr. Benett joined Havas Worldwide, then Euro RSCG Worldwide, in 2004 as global chief strategy officer. Prior to being named global president at Havas Worldwide in 2013, Mr. Benett served as first global CEO at Arnold for three years. In 2014, he was appointed to his most recent roles.
"I'm thankful to Havas and to all the people that I've been fortunate enough to work with, "Mr. Benett said in the company's statement. "I believe the truly integrated model that we have built together is poised for tremendous success."
"Having now implemented a strong leadership team and new regional organizational structure, Havas is ready for a new chapter and I'm extremely proud of our results," he added.
Havas Group is organized into two divisions: Havas Creative Group and Havas Media Group. Havas Creative Group, which Mr. Bollore is taking on direct responsibility for, includes the Havas Worldwide global agency network, the U.S.-based Arnold micronetwork, which has agencies in a few other countries, and all other communications agencies. Havas' Paris agency BETC, one of France's biggest agencies, is also trying to grow into a micronetwork, and has opened BETC shops in other countries including the U.K. and Brazil in the last few years.
Havas Media Group has three brands: Havas Media, Arena Media and Fullsix Media. The media group doesn't appear to be involved in today's management changes.
One of Mr. Bollore's big efforts has been creating Havas Villages around the world, so that the local Havas creative and media agencies are both housed under the same roof.
As the seventh-largest advertising company with 2015 worldwide revenue of $2.4 billion, Havas is dwarfed by the bigger holding companies (No. 1 WPP had 2015 revenue of $18.7 billion).
But Havas' future may be different from that of a traditional ad holding company. Bollore Group, the investment group of French investor Vincent Bollore, as of March 2016 owned 60.0% of Havas. As the largest shareholder, Vincent Bollore was chairman of Havas until 2013, when his son Yannick Bollore succeeded him, and Vincent Bollore became chairman of French entertainmment and content group Vivendi, in which Bollore Group has a 20% stake.
Vincent Bollore has repeatedly said that Vivendi and Havas should work more closely together, and hinted at a potential future merger. In one 2015 initiative, BETC Paris announced the launch of a record label called POP Records, with backing from Vivendi's Universal Music.
On an earnings call with analysts last year, Yannick Bollore said, "There is no official discussion between Vivendi and Havas. We have a common shareholder and maybe we could evolve in the content and data world where there is lots of convergence."