Y&R Europe chairman makes way for European triumvirate

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LONDON -- In the most senior departure from Young & Rubicam Advertising since its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange last May, Fernan Montero is to relinquish his role as chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Advertising Europe September 15. He'll be replaced by three Europeans.

The 50-year-old New York-raised Argentinean is to retire and is in line to collect around $20 million in stock options following Y&R's May 12 IPO. "His job is done in bringing Y&R Europe back to the top of the tree," says a spokesman for the network. "He's going out in a blaze of glory and the time is right to put [the network] into European hands."

Mr. Montero is credited with rebuilding Y&R Europe since his appointment in 1993, when the operation was suffering from the economic recession and low morale. In 1997, Y&R Europe (including Wunderman Cato Johnson and Burson-Marsteller) had billings of $5 billion and income of $563 million. In the last two months, Y&R has picked up significant new business from Ford Europe and Schweppes. Mr. Montero will return to live in Pennsylvania but remain a consultant to the network.

Replacing him will be a triumvirate of Europeans: an experienced international operator with strong client relationships from Switzerland, a more youthful, Dutch management consultant and a French financial wizard.

Bruno Widmer, president of creative shop Advico Y&R, Zurich, will take on the additional role of chairman/CEO of Y&R Europe. Bert Meerstadt, currently chairman of the Y&R Group Netherlands, will relocate to London as president and director of European operations, and Alain Rousset, Y&R Europe's London-based CFO, will become Chief Operating Officer, Europe.

"This is a reward for all our European managers to see us put in these positions," said Mr. Meerstadt, 36. "It's also a benefit because we are close to the cultures and we have a lot more awareness of the intricacies of advertising on a European scale."

Mr. Widmer will make all major policy decisions in consultation with Mr. Meerstadt and Mr. Rousset, while Mr. Meerstadt will be in charge of day to day operations. The new team is claimed to bring a "dynamic combination of qualities." The inclusion of a former management consultant - Mr. Meerstadt worked for McKinsey & Co. until joining Y&R in 1992 - is seen as a neat retort to those who believe the ad industry is under competition from that sector.

Mr. Meerstadt lays out three main aims for the new management: better service to existing clients; new business; and an improved creative product. "We're proud of the awards we get at the moment, but they're not enough," he said. "When you really focus on key corporate accounts, it's difficult to produce top creative work because a lot of concepts need to be exploited in several ways in different markets," he explained. "So the creative product must have a lot of attention." Mr. Widmer will take specific responsibility for raising creative standards.

One of Mr. Montero's most recent achievements is the establishment of a new network of agency partnerships for Y&R in the Middle East, with the eight office TEAM and Israeli agency Shalmor Avnon Amichay.

Mr. Meerstadt's successor in the Netherlands has been found but not yet made public.

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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