Who Wins In Publicis Groupe's Management Shuffle and Reorg?

Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy Extends Mandate, Buys Time to Groom A Successor

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Kevin Roberts
Kevin Roberts

Publicis Groupe's reorganization today signals winners--and a few losers--at the holding company and agency level, and raises some questions about where the group is heading.

By extending Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy's mandate by almost three more years, until May or June 2017, the group is buying time to groom a successor.

The influential four-man Directoire, or management board, is being replaced immediately by a more international and diverse eight-person Directoire+ that includes for the first time Arthur Sadoun, the rapidly-rising French exec who became global CEO of Publicis Worldwide in October 2013. Mr. Sadoun has been tipped for a while as the likeliest successor to Mr. Levy but lacks the experience to take on the job yet. Now, he has a chance to grow in dual network and holding company roles, under Mr. Levy's tutelage. Mr. Sadoun may be one of the biggest winners.

The most obvious loser is Jean-Yves Naouri, once considered Mr. Levy's heir apparent but increasingly relegated to a lesser role or, starting today, no role. In the statement detailing the reorganization, Publicis made it clear: "With regret, Jean-Yves Naouri will not be part of the new management structure."

The previous four-man Directoire was made up of Messrs. Levy and Naouri, along with Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and CFO Jean-Michel Etienne. A new player replaces Mr. Naouri: Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner, a former banker who joined Publicis Groupe two years ago as SVP, compliance and legal, and quickly became an influential exec within Publicis. Ms. Heilbronner, now general secretary, oversees auditing, legal and HR, and is taking on purchasing and insurance functions. The new Directoire+ has four additional slots, giving holding company roles for the first time to Mr. Sadoun; Steve King, CEO of ZenithOptimedia; Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group; and Rishad Tobaccowala, who also becomes chief strategist for Publicis Groupe.

In an odd twist, Ms. Desmond and Mr. King will alternate in the role of chair of Vivaki, with Ms. Desmond going first. Vivaki has undergone a transformation over the years, shifting from a digital network that housed the bulk of the media and digital agency operations to a digital media buying and data hub tangentially aligned with the shops.

At the agency network level, a big winner is Robert Senior, who will succeed Kevin Roberts as CEO of the Saatchi & Saatchi/Fallon network in January 2015, when Mr. Roberts moves over to an executive chairman role at Saatchi and becomes "head coach" of Publicis Groupe. Mr. Senior, a former ski instructor who founded Fallon London as a feisty startup in 1998, is chairman of Saatchi's Worldwide Creative Board, and currently runs European operations. The Saatchi CEO job was tipped to go either to him or to Chris Foster, a Canadian who runs Asia and has not only hands-on experience as CEO in challenging markets like Japan and Korea, but also deep ties to Saatchi's biggest client, Procter & Gamble, from his days as global equity director for the company. He also has U.S. experience, thanks to a three-year stint as CEO of Fallon Minneapolis. Mr. Foster will become chief operating officer, according to today's statement.

Tom Adamski
Tom Adamski

After years of acquiring separate digital agency networks, Publicis is combining Razorfish and Rosetta. Rising star and Rosetta CEO Tom Adamski comes out on top there as CEO of the new Razorfish Global. In another change, he will report directly to Mr. Levy, according to an internal release Publicis Groupe sent as part of its announcement. Mr. Adamski, who works out of Rosetta's San Luis Obispo, CA office, assumed the CEO role at Rosetta last April. He more recently rolled out a separate agency group called Level Studios – the name came from the shop he ran and later sold to Rosetta – to house its long-time Apple client.

The company's four-page statement name checks no fewer than 23 execs, many of whom remain in the same roles. Publicis lauds, for instance "the highly satisfactory performance of our healthcare communications network under CEO Nicholas Colucci." Others aren't mentioned, like Pete Stein, Razorfish Worldwide's CEO. Mr. Stein was elevated to CEO last summer.

And it's unclear where Publicis is going with its creative agency networks. The statement said Tom Bernardin, CEO of Leo Burnett, "will reflect upon geographic coverage and optimization of creative agencies, the steering of integrated communications for our clients, and will produce an action plan to be implemented over the course of 2015," the internal announcement stated.

Contributing: Alexandra Bruell

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