Ron Bess Steps Aside As Havas Prepares to Defend Reckitt Benckiser Account

Global President Andrew Benett Will Handle North American Operations

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Havas Worldwide Chief Operating Officer and North American President Ron Bess is stepping aside and will be replaced by global present Andrew Benett who will oversee North American operations, according to an internal memo obtained by Ad Age.

Ron Bess
Ron Bess

Mr. Bess had been with Havas for nearly a decade, and aside from his North American job, he has been CEO of the Chicago office. He was named North American president in 2009. He had been chief operating officer for the region since 2008. He will remain as a consultant to Havas after the change.

"Ron has also done a great job assembling the stellar team that will be responsible for leading our Chicago Group: Joy Schwartz, Jason Peterson, James Lou, Paul Marobella, Laura Maness and Angelo Kritikos," said Mr. Benett in the memo. "I'm looking forward to working closely with the team in continuing to grow and evolve the Chicago Group, in addition to my leading the day-to-day business for the North America organization....As we enter 2014 with high expectations for significant growth in North America, the network is grateful to continue to have the benefit of Ron's experience, insights and genuine humanity working with us."

Mr. Benett was named Havas' global president, a newly created role at the time, in January. He was previously at the helm of Havas' Arnold Worldwide. In September, though, Havas named Kate Robertson, chairman of Havas Worldwide's U.K. group, co-president. Both report to Havas Worldwide's CEO David Jones.

Exec shuffle
A number of other executive arrivals and departures have happened over the last year. Most recently, Lee Garfinkel, co-chairman of Havas Worldwide and Havas New York, as well as the agency's chief creative officer of global brands, left the agency in November to become CEO at Interpublic's DraftFCB, New York.

A year ago, Matt Weiss, an alumni of McCann and Kirshenbaum, was named global chief marketing officer. Earlier this year, Mr. Benett recruited former R/GA exec Sean Lyons to run Havas' digital operations across the global network. He also named Vin Farrell -- also a veteran of Interpublic's R/GA -- as Havas' global chief content officer.

The move also comes as the agency is in the midst of defending the Reckitt Benckiser creative business in a review that was called earlier this month. Havas stands to potentially lose work on global brands like Finish, Air Wick and Clearasil accounts.

RB review
Just this week, Reckitt Benckiser named four media shops to its roster after a review -- its first in four years, when it named Publicis Groupe's Zenith and Havas Media Group its media agencies. Interpublic and Aegis came in the big winners this time, as Havas will now also see its shares the business globally divided among more agencies.

It's believed that Mr. Bess didn't have much involvement in the Reckitt Benckiser business, though Mr. Benett, Mr. Jones and Ms. Robertson are leading the pitch.

Earlier this week Havas in New York picked up the Liberty Mutual creative account.

Mr. Bess got his start in the ad business at Foote, Cone & Belding, now DraftFCB, and then joined what is now DDB Chicago, leading accounts such as McDonald's, and was instrumental in bringing Budweiser to the agency. Mr. Bess then founded Bayer Bess Vanderwarker; the shop was ultimately acquired by FCB, which Mr. Bess later led as president. He also served as CEO of Y&R, New York, prior to joining Euro as CEO.

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