Nearly a month after the resignation of its longtime Chairman-CEO, Alain de Pouzilhac, embattled agency holding company Havas on July 13 named Philippe Wahl as CEO and Vincent Bollore, the company's single largest shareholder, as Chairman of its board of directors.
Wahl is the former General Manager of French savings bank group Caisse D’Epargne and a consultant to various companies, including La Poste, France’s postal operator.
The announcement comes not long after Bollore’s attempt to woo TBWA Worldwide CEO Jean-Marie Dru to Havas failed. Bollore continued to try to allay concerns that he might sell off parts of Havas.
“My personal contribution at the head of the Havas Group demonstrates the long-term commitment of the Bollore Group to the strategic development and growth of Havas and its activities,” he said in a statement.
Bollore, a French industrialist and corporate raider known for acquiring companies and then dismembering them to sell the parts, has in the last year become Havas' largest single stockholder. In June, he won a battle with de Pouzilhac to have himself and three of his companies' executives added to Havas’ board.
De Pouzilhac resigned as Chairman-CEO on June 21, retaining only his position as a continuing board member of the company.
The board has also appointed three executives – Ed Eskandarian, CEO of Arnold Worldwide Partners; Jacques Seguela, Havas’ Chief Creative Officer; and Fernando Rodes, CEO of MPG and a Havas director – as vice-chairmen. The executives, along with Bollore and Havas Director Leopoldo Rodes, father of Fernando Rodes, will participate in a strategic committee, led by Rodes Senior.
Havas also elevated a number of Euro RSCG Worldwide executives to the post of managing director, including three from France and one from the US, saying they “symobolise the participation of a new generation of management in the group.”
The new French managing directors are Mercedes Erra, Chairman of Euro RSCG France; Stephane Fouks, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide, France; and Remi Babinet, Creative Director, Euro RSCG Worldwide, France. From the US is David Jones, a Briton who became CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide’s New York office last September.
However, not mentioned in any of the board’s management changes is Jim Heekin, Chairman-CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide. Heekin, according to one executive familiar with the matter, met Bollore in Paris on July 11, and Bollore, according to this executive, told Heekin that he would very much like him to remain with the global network. Bollore could not be reached at press time.
There is speculation within the industry that Heekin is in talks with Havas rival, WPP Group, to become CEO of Grey Worldwide, the agency network of WPP’s Grey Global Group. Ed Meyer, CEO of Grey Global Group, said, “I’ve always had a high opinion of Jim Heekin,” but declined to comment further, citing a policy of not commenting on rumours and speculation.
Several industry executives have pointed to talks Heekin and Meyer held in September 2003 about the former’s joining Grey Worldwide to take over responsibilities handled by Steve Blamer, who was in negotiations to move to Interpublic’s Foote Cone & Belding. But, according to knowledgeable executives, Heekin's discussion with Grey ended when Blamer opted to remain at Grey.