Levy wields a strong hand despite low-key public style

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Maurice levy is a private man, especially when compared to some former and current heads of Saatchi & Saatchi.

While the T-shirt-clad current CEO Kevin Roberts and the agency's urbane founder Maurice Saatchi have cultivated media images, Mr. Levy told Advertising Age in the past he believes it's poor manners to speak of oneself. The client and not the agency should be the center of attention.

Despite Mr. Levy's natural reserve, his actions have hit the headlines, particularly during the messy and very public end to a 10-year alliance with True North Communications and his later failed hostile bid to acquire the holding company for what now is FCB Worldwide.

MENTOR'S FOOTSTEPS

Mr. Levy does, however, have a reputation for being absorbed in Publicis. Mr. Levy adopted his hands-on management style from his mentor, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, the father of French advertising. The man who founded Publicis in 1927 had a passion for detail and personal involvement in every significant decision.

Mr. Bleustein-Blanchet, according to industry lore, told the young computer engineer on his first day at Publicis in 1971, where he was given responsibility for data processing and information technology, that he one day would run the agency.

He became president in 1988 and since Mr. Bleustein-Blanchet's death in 1996, Mr. Levy has worked closely with the founder's daughter and current chairman, Elisabeth Badinter, to keep her father's legacy alive.

PROMISE ANYTHING

And what of the Saatchi acquisition? At least one executive familiar with Publicis and Mr. Levy thinks the marriage may be less pleasant than the engagement.

"The history of Maurice Levy acquisitions has been to promise the acquired anything as long as Maurice [gets to be] CEO," said the executive, who asked to remain nameless.

Contributing: Hillary Chura.

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