Tom Bernardin is stepping down as CEO of Leo Burnett Worldwide to be replaced by Rich Stoddart (below), currently CEO of Leo B in North America. Stoddart, who joined the agency from Ford in 2005, will keep his North American responsibilities.
Bernardin will stay on as chairman of LBW to June 2017. Bernardin has been the boss for 11 years.
Burnett is owned by Publicis Groupe which recently announced a reorganisation which placed Arthur Sadoun in ultimate charge of all the group’s creative agencies, including Leo Burnett. Sadoun is also CEO of the Publicis Worldwide agency, which places Stoddart and the other agency bosses in the rather peculiar position of having to report to the head of another, sometimes rival, agency.
We don’t know if this extra hassle had anything to do with Bernardin’s decision to step down as CEO. At 62 he’s ten years older than Stoddart and he says the agency needs a leader who’s going to be there in five to ten years, as the agency world (and, indeed, Publicis Groupe) changes.
Sadoun says: “We want to make sure that this brand and its unique culture are stronger than ever as we pursue our ultimate goal, to be the indispensable creative partner to our clients. Maurice Levy (Publicis Groupe CEO) and I are both confident that Rich is the best person to incarnate Leo Burnett on this new journey and lead the teams to great successes for our clients and our agencies.”
Sadoun seems to be calling the shots at Publicis Groupe in a more public way than any of the various putative successors to Levy over the years have felt able to do. Levy is due to retire in 18 months. It’ll be interesting to see if the imposing Sadoun manages to keep his head.