Publicis Groupe Board Asks Maurice Levy to Delay Retirement

Chairman-CEO's Possible Successor Jean-Yves Naouri Promoted to COO as VivaKi Managing Partner David Kenny Leaves

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NEW YORK ( -- After recently emphasizing his Dec. 31, 2011, retirement date, Publicis Groupe Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy has been asked to stay. Aided by a flood of "Don't leave, Maurice" messages from high-ranking French officials, the holding company's supervisory board met today and unanimously agreed with the sentiment.

"To the question put to me by the supervisory board, I said that I would stay on board as long as needed," Mr. Levy said in a statement. "I will make sure the transition happens when the time is right, so that my succession takes place in the best possible conditions for the group, its clients, employees and shareholders."

Maurice Levy has been asked to delay his retirement.
Maurice Levy has been asked to delay his retirement. Credit: Julio Piatti
Meanwhile, Publicis Groupe is promoting Jean-Yves Naouri to the new position of chief operating officer of the group, putting him a step closer to succeeding Maurice Levy as chairman-CEO in the future.

Mr. Naouri's new COO position, effective July 1, may not be that much different from his current role as exec VP-group operations, and a member of the five-person management board that also includes Mr. Levy. His elevation will be seen as a sign that he is Publicis' -- and Mr. Levy's -- heir apparent. At the same time, if Mr. Levy stays for another five years or so, other candidates may emerge.

"The appointment of Jean-Yves Naouri as chief operating officer is a logical step in his career," Mr. Levy said in the statement. "I am convinced that he will meet the first goals assigned to him and that he will contribute to the development of a group he knows inside out."

Kenny leaves
In another major change, David Kenny, managing partner of VivaKi, is leaving the company at the end of next month. His exit from Publicis comes nearly two years after he was placed at the helm of VivaKi -- an umbrella operating unit that combines the resources of MediaVest, Starcom, Digitas and Zenith Optimedia -- alongside Jack Klues, the chairman of Starcom MediaVest Group. In the move, he handed over his Digitas CEO title, a role he held for a decade, to Laura Lang. At VivaKi, Mr. Klues will become the sole CEO.

Mr. Kenny was considered a possible contender for Mr. Levy's job, but a move to Paris was a requirement for moving up in the group from his current position. Mr. Kenny's 2009 salary was $3.2 million, including bonuses. His departure has been rumored for a while, and some in the industry predict his next move will be to a venture capital firm. Before Digitas, Mr. Kenny was on the consultancy side, spending time at Bain & Co.

In an internal company e-mail obtained by Ad Age, Mr. Kenny wrote: "Over the past year, I have discussed the possibility of moving to the next level of responsibility at Publicis Groupe with Maurice Levy and [Supervisory Board Chairwoman] Elisabeth Badinter. I have appreciated their support and vision for our company, and I found the prospects of a broader role personally compelling and exciting. Unfortunately, the next role would also involve a move to Paris, which has become impossible for my family for very personal reasons."

New COO Mr. Naouri joined Publicis in 1993 as a founding partner of Publicis Consultants, and he become president of the group's main French agency Publicis Conseil in Paris in 2000. In his holding-company role, he has also been tapped to oversee the group's health-care business and has been in charge of developing platforms to consolidate and manage different functions at group companies on a more global basis. In his new role, his objectives will include "simplifying the organization and optimizing growth and costs," Publicis said in a statement.

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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