Jack Klues to Retire at Publicis Groupe After 35-Year Career

Move Comes Amid Vivaki Restructure: 'We Needed to Simplify'

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After a 35-year career at Publicis Groupe , Jack Klues, CEO of the French ad holding company's digital and media agency network Vivaki, is retiring at the end of the year.

The news comes as Vivaki, which was created in the summer of 2008, restructures and rethinks its offerings.

Jack Klues
Jack Klues

In a company statement, Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy said today that Mr. Klues "is going to help set Vivaki on its new course, and then map his retirement." He added that although Mr. Klues is retiring as CEO at the close of 2012, "he will remain with Publicis Groupe through the first half of 2013 to help establish Vivaki as a separate business unit." At just 57 years old, it's unclear what other opportunities Mr. Klues might pursue thereafter.

Vivaki Chief Financial Officer Frank Voris will succeed Mr. Klues as CEO and work closely with Rishad Tobaccowala, who remains Vivaki's chief innovation and strategy officer.

Before becoming CFO of Vivaki, Mr. Voris served in the same role at Starcom MediaVest Group. He's also credited with the financial split between Leo Burnett and Starcom and working on M&A activity.

Mr. Klues' departure will conclude a lengthy tenure at Publicis Groupe that has seen him hold a variety of roles on the creative and media sides.

He first joined the holding company as a Leo Burnett account executive trainee in the spring of 1977. He became a media supervisor 15 months later and moved into a role at Leo Burnett media spin-off Starcom. From there, he took on various leadership roles within the media agency network and in 2005 began overseeing all Publicis Groupe media agencies.

In the last few years he's devoted his time to managing Vivaki -- often referred to as a holding company within a holding company -- that pulls from the resources of media agency networks StarcomMediavest Group and ZenithOptimedia, as well as digital agencies Razorfish and Digitas. While intended to be Publicis' answer to mastering the digital media universe, it's also been a complicated structure that , as Mr. Klues told Ad Age , could use simplifying for clients and internal agencies to understand and best leverage.

Along with Mr. Klues' retirement, Publicis Groupe announced changes intended to make Vivaki's own digital resources accessible to its other agencies -- such as PR, health care and creative. This means that Vivaki will no longer serve as a holding company to the four shops. It also means a reporting change; SMG CEO Laura Desmond, Razorfish CEO Bob Lord and ZenithOptimedia CEO Steve King will report to Maurice Levy. Up until now, they have been reporting to Mr. Klues.

Mr. Klues explained that the group recognized the need for its other agencies and clients to tap into Vivaki resources, such as AOD, its addressable or programmable online buying suite, search tools and capabilities to improve back-room efficiencies such as bill paying.

"We challenged the group at large on how do we reimagine ourselves, continue to accelerate the digital evolution of Publicis Groupe on behalf of clients and therefore ourselves," he said, "This is something [our agencies] hungered for and needed as they too are on the same acceleration path. It's what new Vivaki will look like. It will be accessible beyond the four agencies that have been my remit."

The group also realized it needed to simplify its model, he explained. "What we didn't intend, which was to some degree what we got, was the complexity from the organizational and structural model," he said. "We were considered a holding company within a holding company and we weren't looking for that kind of confusion and associated costs that complexity can bring, such as multiple layers of talent management and financial reporting. We needed to simplify wherever we could."

The timing of his retirement is in part tied to the timing of this new model. It's also for personal reasons. "I made my wife No. 2 for all these years. I feel like I'm at a place where my immediate family needs to be a priority," Mr. Klues said. He said that he lost both his dad and sister this year and plans on spending more time with his 90-year-old mother.

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