When "the twins" (as they are known) stepped down as joint chief executives of Aegis Media Europe after 18 years with the group-taking significant business and a formidable reputation to their new, WPP Group-backed competitor-Ms. Sauty de Chalon stepped up to the challenge of stemming client losses and reinventing Aegis' devastated Carat unit in France.
That was December 2004. Looking back, Ms. Sauty de Chalon describes 2005 as the "best year of my professional life," though she admits that during that year she often said to her husband, "This is the worst year of my life."
Carat fought its way through 34 pitches representing 70% of its business, including Renault's $600 million pan-European review, in a little more than a year. "We were under siege," Ms. Sauty de Chalon recalls, adding, "I said to clients that I knew they weren't happy, and I promised to do things differently, to stop working in silos and bring all the media together."
Her reward for success was a promotion from CEO of Carat France to CEO of Aegis Media France last January. She's now in charge of Vizeum, Isobar and new projects as well as Carat.
Ms. Sauty de Chalon, 44, is putting digital "at the core" of Aegis' offering and launching Aegis Group companies such as a French office of Ammo Marketing, the San Francisco-based word-of-mouth marketing company that Aegis acquired in February.
"She has transformed Carat France into a lively, up-to-date, modern agency," says Robert Lerwill, Aegis Group CEO.
Ms. Sauty de Chalon worked in newspaper sales and TV before joining Carat in 1997. She moved to New York with her husband and three children just a week before Sept. 11, 2001. She was CEO of Consodata, then owned by Aegis, but its offices closed for a month after 9/11 and business fell by 50%. "I turned it around, but Carat was easy by comparison," she says.
The experience drove Ms. Sauty de Chalon to yoga, still a passion; she returned to France in 2003 and was back at Carat in 2004. Under Ms. Sauty de Chalon, Carat never lost its No. 1 position in France, though its share of the media-buying market slipped from the low 20s to the high teens. It's now at 25%.
"We were impressed by her resilience," Mr. Lerwill says. "She is a doer and an influencer, and she is so well-connected that we don't need to appoint a chairman."
* Rebuilt Carat in France after CEOs, clients left
* Making digital a priority after being tapped to run Aegis Media France