Sacre bleu! Might a foreigner lead Havas?

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Jean-Marie dru's spurning of Havas has made the previously unthinkable entirely possible: The distinctly French ad institution could be led by a foreigner.

Having put most of its oeufs in Mr. Dru's basket, Havas and Vincent Bollore, the corporate raider who led a recent management coup, are now faced with a rather slim list of French candidates with both the operational experience and vision to lead a company struggling to survive in a world dominated by behemoths such as Omnicom and WPP. Havas, which owns networks Euro RSCG, Arnold Worldwide and MPG, is the world's sixth-largest holding company.

In the days following Mr. Dru's decision to remain president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide, only a couple internal candidates surfaced, namely Euro France executives Stephane Fouks and Mercedes Erra, neither of whom were getting great odds. Neither is seen as desirable as Mr. Dru, who "would have been perfect," according to one Euro executive. "He's both French and an outsider."

Mr. Fouks, CEO of Euro RSCG France and a PR man by trade, is politically plugged in, an important quality in a heavily regulated environment. He's also close with clients like Danone and Airbus. But, as one insider put it, "He'd be a Band-Aid, not a steroid."

Ms. Erra, chairman of Euro RSCG France and president of BETC Euro RSCG, the network's flagship is said to be considering starting up her own agency, according to an executive close to Havas. Neither executive returned phone calls.

Another dark horse is Jean Claude Boulet, founder of BDDP who now runs corporate communications agency Harrison & Wolf, Paris. None of the handicappers see any candidates at the other French ad giant, Publicis Groupe.

That leaves open the possibility that Mr. Bollore and the transition team that replaced deposed chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac will turn to other European or U.S. executives to run one of France's best-known companies. It also is increasing speculation that Mr. Bollore will increase his stake and sell off the company piece by piece.

Mr. Bollore, who now owns 22% of Havas, defeated Mr. de Pouzilhac in a showdown earlier this month. He won four seats on the board, effectively forcing Mr. de Pouzilhac's resignation two weeks ago.

Havas is being run by directors Richard Colker Ed Eskandarian, Jacques Seguela and Fernando Rodes. A Havas rep didn't return calls.

contributing: laurel wentz, isabelle musnik

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