David Hearn, chairman-CEO of Cordiant Communication Group's Bates Worldwide, will take on Mr. Whitehead's responsibilities.
"The Bates business here is not enjoying the best time it's ever had," Mr. Hearn told AdAge.com. "One of the key tasks we have as a management group is to restore and re-energize Bates' business here and get back some of the glory it once enjoyed. A turnaround situation is usually accompanied by a change in leadership. It's clear that's what we've got to do."
Mr. Hearn said he
"I want to take this opportunity to get close to the business on a day-to-day basis," Mr. Hearn said. "I don't know yet what the right answers are to a whole load of things. I want to begin to create a new culture and start to represent the Bates agency to the ouside world."
He said Mr. Whitehead's departure isn't part of a larger plan to change key staff. The CEO for both Europe, London-based Toby Hoare, just started in March, and Asian CEO Ian Smith, based in Sydney, has only been in his job for about a month, Mr. Hearn said.
Mr. Whitehead, who was named president and chief operating officer of Bates Worldwide in 2000, had earlier appeared to be in line to succeed Michael Bungey, Cordiant's chairman-CEO. Then he was in charge of the U.S. and Asia, and more recently the U.S. and Latin America.
In the U.S., Bates lost both the media and creative portions of Hyundai Motor North America, and the dealer business is likely to follow. Hyundai was Bates' biggest global client, accounting for about 9% of Cordiant's revenue. Bates still handles Hyundai in Korea and other markets.
Mr. Whitehead did not return calls by press time.