How Will The Next Generation of Adland Look?

As Holding Company Heads Grow Closer to Retirement Age, Speculation Naturally Swirls Around Succession Plans

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A decade from now, a vastly different cast of characters could be ruling adland.

The only player sure to remain on the scene is David Jones. The longtime Euro RSCG executive earlier this year was tapped by Vincent Bollore, the chairman of French holding company Havas, to become the company's CEO at 44.

Tadashi Ishii
Tadashi Ishii
Mr. Jones' ascension marked the first of the next generation of holding-company heads, and next might well be Tadashi Ishii of Dentsu. At 60, Mr. Ishii is a fair bit older than Mr. Jones. But the Japanese ad giant is taking the succession matter seriously when, as of this year, it asked Tatsuyoshi Takashima, 67, to step aside and make way for Mr. Ishii to become the company's president. As such, he'll be more involved in charting the course for Dentsu's future.

At Interpublic, Michael Roth, 65, has said publicly that he won't depart the company until they've hit peer-level margins -- which could take a couple of years. "We have a CEO succession plan in place for IPG that the board of directors reviews annually," IPG said in a statement. Ask around, and you'll likely hear that among the candidates is Harris Diamond, CEO of PR firm Weber Shandwick.

John Wren
John Wren
In the U.S., John Wren, president-CEO of Omnicom Group, is not only younger than his peers, he's also showing rejuvenated interest in the company. Asked how long he plans to stay or when will he retire, the 59-year old exec told Ad Age : "I am very much engaged but I serve at the pleasure of the board."

Should the board have other plans down the road, a potential successor could be Randy Weisenburger, Omnicom's chief financial officer since 1998. Another possibility is said to be Andrew Robertson, BBDO Worldwide chief executive.

Martin Sorrell
Martin Sorrell
At WPP, whose Chief Executive Martin Sorrell is 66, it's hard to imagine which of the agency network chiefs might be a successor, considering its business model -- heavily focused on research -- is quite different than that of other holding companies. And unlike at Publicis, Omnicom and Interpublic, where names surface from time to time, the matter of successors for Mr. Sorrell is a matter closely held by the board. Said its annual report: "We continue to adhere to the position ... that -- lest public discussion of this subject foster speculation and distraction -- the content of these ongoing deliberations should remain strictly confidential."

MDC Partners, meanwhile, says it sees a future with Miles Nadal, 53, and Miles Nadal alone. "There is no formal succession plan for another CEO."

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