Maurice Lévy will continue to work full time for Publicis Groupe after he steps down as chairman and CEO at the end of today.
In his new role as chairman of the supervisory board, the 75 year-old will receive compensation of €2.8 million per annum. That's more than the €2.5 million total he earned as CEO in 2016, a figure approved by shareholder vote on Wednesday.
At the annual shareholder meeting in Paris, Lévy claimed that he would have liked to "tiptoe out" from the agency holding-company giant, whose portfolio includes Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis.Sapient, Leo Burnett and Publicis Worldwide.
"It took more than a year for Elisabeth Badinter to convince me to take over from her on the supervisory board," Lévy said, referring to the current chairman of the supervisory board and daughter of the group's founder, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet.
"I ultimately realized that in a company like ours that is based on human ties, there is an enormous amount to be handed on… even though I may have had other dreams and other ambitions," he added.
Lévy's successor, Arthur Sadoun, reluctantly took to the stage at the insistence of shareholders, despite having agreed that he would not say anything until Thursday, his first day in charge.
Referring to his continuing working relationship with Lévy, Sadoun said, "It's not a new kid on the block, it's a new duo."
Badinter will be Lévy's deputy starting Thursday. She said of Sadoun, "He has a major task ahead of him to lead Publicis to a new era… more uncertain and also more exciting than before."
As a farewell to Lévy, a film showed a selection of highlights from his 46 years at Publicis Groupe, starting as a young, dark-haired IT guy.
The tone was patriotic, talking about the group's "Creative audacity aimed at conquering a world that was essentially Anglo Saxon," and taking pride in its "seducing charm." The film also compared "look-alike Anglo Saxon campaigns" with Publicis Groupe's ability to celebrate difference.
Lévy continued the patriotic theme as he bid farewell. Publicis Groupe "is so attached to its independence and to its Frenchness at the same time," he said. "Our feet are somewhere there, planted in the asphalt of the Champs Elysées. The Anglo Saxon press often refer to us as a 'French giant'…. We the French have had to win our way in an Anglo Saxon world. We have had to innovate and will have to continue doing so if we are to remain independent."
Highlights from Lévy's 46 years at Publicis Groupe
He was just a computer programmer who had been there for less than a year, but when a fire caught hold in Publicis' office, he risked his life to rush back in and save the company's computer records.
$3.7 billion acquisition of Sapient confirmed the group's commitment to digital.
The proposed $35 billion mereger with Omnicom to create a new No. 1 agency holding company fails.