It was pretty clear last June that David Jones’s time as CEO of Havas was up, when majority shareholder Vincent Bollore promoted son Yannick to chairman of the business and other son Cyrille to be his number two at family-owned Bollore Group.
The message was clear: this is a family-owned business and the family runs it.
Since then Jones (left), whose empire included Havas Worldwide (formerly Euro RSCG) and Arnold, has suffered a few shots to the head; most notably Arnold losing Volvo worldwide to Grey. But it’s been clear for quite a while that Havas, once Vincent’s ambitions of merging it with media buyer Aegis were confounded by Aegis’s growth and subsequent £3.2bn merger with Dentsu, was losing its status as a viable global marcoms contender.
It’s still pretty big, recently shuffling a thousand or so people into a big new office in New York, but tiny in comparison to Omnicom/Publicis, Aegis/Dentsu and even Interpublic. But it’s losing out on pitches against the biggies for transnational creative and media business.
Not much of which can be blamed on Jones, although his recent rebranding of nearly everything as Havas this and that has hardly been a signal success. Jones has resigned, saying he wants to start a social media cum corporate responsibility business – which may be just one of those things you say when you’re turfed or be a real idea. Ace schmoozer Jones certainly has the connections to make a go of it.
At one time he was some people’s favourite to take over, eventually – in about 2025 or, possibly, later – from Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP. Maybe he still will. But making a fortune in social media may seem a better idea.
As for Havas, it’s losing the multinational marcoms battle but that doesn’t mean to say that the Bolllores can’t make a lot of money out off it. Vincent trousered about £500m when Aegis sold to Dentsu so he’s got the firepower if he wants to use it. Havas’s BETC in Paris and London is one of the best creative agencies in the world.
And Jones? Well let’s hope we hear more from him. He’s a bright guy and, although I’ve never met him, reported to be a human being. Certainly a species worth preserving in an adland that looks more and more like football in the transfer window.