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Said to Be in Final Talks to Join Havas

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CANNES, France ( -- Jean-Marie Dru, president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide, is believed to be finalizing negotiations to join Havas as CEO and leave the Omnicom Group-owned agency network, according to executives close to the situation.
Photo: Yessica Sanchez
High-placed sources say Jean-Marie Dru will leave TBWA and is negotiating the final details of a deal to go to Havas.
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If the deal closes, he will succeed Alain de Pouzilhac, who resigned late yesterday as chairman-CEO of Havas.

Grim-faced conversation
Mr. Dru was seen today having a grim-faced conversation over mineral water at the Palme d'Or restaurant here with his boss, John Wren, president-CEO of Omnicom Group. Numerous agency executives said Mr. Dru's decision was basically made, but all the details have not yet been finalized.

A TBWA spokesman would not comment on the matter, saying he will not comment on rumors and speculation. A Havas executive said, "We'd like him to come," but would not comment on the situation. "Ask Jean-Marie."

Attempts to contact Mr. Dru, who is in Cannes, through his office in Paris was not successful by press time. A spokeswoman for Havas said nothing about Mr. Dru has been announced.

Mr. Dru's potential arrival to the French holding company is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga of Havas' management transformation. A Frenchman with experience running global networks, Mr. Dru is widely reported to be the first pick of Vincent Bollore, Havas' largest shareholder and the force behind Mr. de Pouzilhac's highly public ouster.

Management team
Mr. de Pouzilhac, an outspoken critic of Mr. Bollore, resigned yesterday at a Havas board meeting that ran from mid-afternoon well into the evening hours in Paris. Havas said yesterday that until a new CEO is named, longtime director Richard Colker, partner in Gerant Colker Gelardin & Co., will act as chairman-CEO, backed by a team comprised of top executives from various Havas' companies: Ed Eskandarian, CEO of Arnold Worldwide Partners; Fernando Rodes, CEO of MPG; and Jacques Seguela, vice president and chief creative officer of Havas.

Mr. Dru joined TBWA in 1998 as president and international CEO after Omnicom purchased BDDP, the agency he co-founded in 1984. He started his career at Dupuy/Compton, which later became Saatchi & Saatchi, working as an account executive on the Procter & Gamble Co. account. He eventually became executive creative director. In 1977, he moved to Y&R in Paris as managing director, and two years later was named CEO.

One Havas insider welcomed Mr. Dru's appointment. "He's an established executive, known in France but who also has experience in international marketers. His arrival also puts an end to the bickering between de Pouzilhac and Bollore, which is good."

Not 'Darth Vader'
Mr. Bollore, declaring himself neither "Darth Vader nor the Big Bad Wolf" in a discussion with shareholders June 9, called Havas -- a well-known company in France with a rich cultural heritage, dating back to its beginnings as a news service -- a beautiful company. He also sought to allay concerns that he might initiate a breakup of Havas by selling off pieces and described his investment as long-term.

The final showdown between Mr. Bollore and de Pouzilhac began after Mr. Bollore requested four seats on the Havas board, which Mr. de Pouzilhac fiercely opposed. Shareholders narrowly voted in favor of Mr. Bollore and his three board nominees. A day after the vote, Mr. de Pouzilhac in an e-mail to Havas employees said he would continue in his job. But Mr. Bollore disagreed, and quietly engineered a campaign to remove him. Rumors have circulated for weeks that Mr. Dru would succeed Mr. de Pouzilhac.

Despite Mr. Dru's arrival to Havas, many in the ad industry continue to question how long Mr. Bollore --one of the world's wealthiest men, according to Forbes magazine, who has built his fortune by buying stakes in undervalued companies, pushing for management change and then selling at a profit -- will actually hold on to his shares.

"There are plenty of people who'd want parts of Havas," commented one executive attending the Cannes Advertising Festival, "and Vincent Bollore knows them all."

Mr. Bollore has said publicly that he is good friends with Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy and also knows WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell well.

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