Maurice Levy to stay on at Publicis Groupe for two more years – now there’s a surprise

Long-serving Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy (he took the helm in 1987) was supposed to be stepping down next year but now he’s not – he’s still going to be there until 2017.

PG is still grappling with the consequences of its failed $35bn merger with Omnicom (Omnicom seems to have fared rather better since the merger collapsed). Levy has announced a new ‘even more digital’ strategy which, a couple of weeks ago, seemed to include a bid for quoted data company Criteo.

The reality for PG is that, without Levy, there doesn’t seem to be a lot left. The French-owned marcoms giant has finally confirmed that one-time heir apparent COO Jean-Yves Naouri gave up the unequal contest in the summer. Being a so-called heir apparent at PG is akin to being a member of a Roman emperor’s court*, which may be why Publicis Worldwide boss Arthur Sadoun (Publicis Worldwide being the agency network where it all started) is keeping his head down.

Levy says he’ll step down at the shareholders meeting in the first half of 2017 when he’ll be 75 or thereabouts.

For all its recent reverses PG is in pretty good financial shape with the resources to make a big bid. But Levy is averse to overpaying (having paid top dollar for a number of digital companies in the past few years) and has walked away from deals for Interpublic and, it seems, Criteo, when news leaked out and the shares rose sharply.

The markets seem happy enough though. PG shares rose 1.1 per cent on the French CAC-40 market although that would have been partly in response to the announcement that the company intends to raise its dividend to 35 per cent of net profits next year and 42 per cent in 2018.

*Did anyone else notice the hilarious image of WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell as a Roman emperor in a puff for the Sunday Times Business News’ ‘Gods of Business’ poll at the weekend? There was Martin, lord of all he surveyed, surrounded by fawning midgets. WPP’s Grey handles News Corporation’s ads in the UK – did some mischievous art director commission this? A copy please if anyone’s got one.


9001_KR_DuncanCole_red_chair-1-300x223It appears that Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts is also stepping down in 2016. In the meantime he’s going to be coaching senior PG execs (he’ll probably have them doing All Blacks training exercises). And who’ll replace the man in black? Is Euro boss Robert Senior in Maurice’s good books?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.