Move Would Fit Bollore's Plan to Emphasize Media

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Despite official denials from Havas, speculation is growing that Chairman Vincent Bollore has approached Fernando Rodes Vila, CEO of Havas’ MPG media unit, about taking over as CEO of the entire Havas group.
Fernando Rodes Vila, CEO of MPG, is under consideration to head the overall Havas Group, according to knowledgeable people close to the situation.
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That position is held now by Philippe Wahl, who joined the company in July 2005 following the ouster of Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac.

Havas and MPG spokesmen denied that Mr. Bollore spoke to Mr. Rodes before the holidays about the job. Mr. Bollore did not immediately return calls.

Keen interest in media
Mr. Bollore has a keen interest in media and believes that it is a key part of Havas’ future. Although MPG is only the 10th largest media group by estimated billings (just less than $9 billion for 2005), Mr. Bollore is also the largest shareholder, with a 25% stake, in London-based Aegis Group, and has been open about his desire for MPG and Aegis to work together.

Mr. Rodes, a former banker, grew up in the media business. His father, Leopoldo, a former agency executive in Spain, founded Media Planning Group, and the Rodes family became one of Havas’ largest shareholders after selling MPG to the holding company. (Mr. Rodes’ brother Alfonso also works at MPG).

An astute, hands-on manager, Mr. Rodes has capably navigated the political infighting that plagues Havas. At the July 2005 showdown over board seats for Mr. Bollore, for instance, Mr. Rodes voted in favor of a seat for Mr. Bollore but not for his three representatives, acknowledging Mr. Bollore’s right to join the board without appearing disloyal to Mr. de Pouzilhac.

Aegis, MPG marriage?
At a press conference in Paris in December, Mr. Bollore noted that Havas is half the size it was five years ago, and described the former management’s strategy of building by acquisition as “calamitous.” He would like Aegis and MPG to combine their media capabilities and said, “We have not invested in [Aegis] by chance.”

Separately, Mr. de Pouzilhac is re-emerging in a new role. He will be CEO of France’s long-promised international news channel, intended to give a French perspective to international news. The state-funded channel, due to launch by the end of 2006, will be a joint venture between public broadcaster France Televisions and TF1, the top commercial network. For the time being, the network is simply called CFII, short for the initials in French for French International News Network.

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