Publicis, Saatchi integration task trusted to Morin

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Maurice Levy has deputized his right-hand man, Jean-Paul Morin, to oversee the integration of Saatchi & Saatchi into Publicis Groupe.

Mr. Morin, 54, until last week chief financial officer of Publicis, will also be in charge, along with Chairman-CEO Mr. Levy, of international expansion strategy and acquisitions. He was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to Publicis' $2 billion takeover of Saatchi & Saatchi, completed in mid-September when Publicis' stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

OPERATIONAL PHASE

"The buyout is complete and Publicis is listed in New York, which means we're now going into the operational phase of the deal," a Publicis executive said. "The key task facing Jean-Paul Morin is to make these two groups resemble one another, maintaining their brand differences but harmonizing their legal and financial operation procedures."

What remains unclear is whether Mr. Morin's role at Saatchi will be one of oversight of financial systems or whether he will pressure Saatchi management into cutting costs and boosting profits. Certainly his new, somewhat odd title of general secretary offers no clues. Mr. Levy has promised cost savings and other synergies linked to the acquisition but has not spelled out how much will be saved or how. Although Mr. Levy had Mr. Morin in tow when he hosted a lunch for journalists at the Peninsula Hotel in New York last month prior to obtaining his stock exchange listing, he appears to be almost unknown at Saatchi.

One top Saatchi executive in New York said, "I've never heard of him," while another said he thought he might have met the Frenchman in the hallway. Speculation at the agency is that Mr. Morin will have a very hands-off role in the integration process, dealing only with financial matters.

A Publicis executive said Mr. Morin will be dealing with integrating profitability norms, financial accounting procedures and auditing systems, among other things. "It's impossible to imagine that two groups of this size can merge into a single entity without someone overseeing the process," the executive said.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Tasks facing Mr. Morin include consolidating real estate in different parts of the world, including merging various administrative centers into one corporate headquarters to be located in Paris. Mr. Morin also will oversee creation of joint management teams for corporate activities and realigning financial reporting and tax filing.

In the U.S., Saatchi staffers are still getting used to a new management structure. Last month, North American Chairman-CEO Jennifer Laing announced she will leave Nov. 30 after three years in the U.S., a departure believed to be related to the merger. Ms. Laing joined Saatchi in London soon after the agency opened in 1970. She is returning to London, where she'll be looking for her next job, with Tony Dalton, her longtime partner and Saatchi & Saatchi North America vice chairman. Mr. Dalton is retiring and will devote more time to one of his passions, horse racing.

Mr. Morin will be replaced as chief financial officer by Jean-Michel Etienne, 48. Before working at Publicis, Mr. Etienne was senior VP-chief financial officer of a U.S. company called Crown Cork & Seal.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca

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