Jerry Buhlmann has surprised the industry by quitting his role as CEO of Dentsu Aegis. He is only 59, which is young compared to John Wren at Omnicom (66) and Michael Roth at Interpublic (72).
We also know that Buhlmann is very fit — he’s represented England as a senior triathlete — and is no doubt already in training for his next move in the industry. He’s always been pretty quiet at Dentsu, so it’s not clear what his preoccupations are, but could he be starting a rival to Sorrell’s S4 Capital? Or perhaps lining up a move to run one of the other holding companies, which are all in need of the media, digital and entrepreneurial savvy that Buhlmann has in spades.
Dentsu is in the process of reorganising itself along a more traditional holding company model, and it was expected that this move would give Buhlmann more power, as the business becomes more global and less Japan-centric.
The reorganisation was rumoured to be partly about rewarding Buhlmann — who had been cited as a possible successor to Martin Sorrell for years — for staying with the group and not jumping ship to WPP when Sorrell left.
Buhlmann has been with the company a long time, one way or another. He founded BBJ in 1989, sold it to Aegis in 1996, and Aegis sold to Dentsu in 2012. He will be gone from Dentsu at the end of this year but will stick around act as a special advisor to Dentsu throughout 2019, presumably while he finalises his next move.
Tim Andree, only a couple of years Buhlmann’s junior, will take over, adding the title of CEO to his existing role as executive chairman of Dentsu Aegis Network.
The succession doesn’t look rushed. Andree, who was previously a marketer at Toyota and Canon, joined Dentsu as CEO of America in 2006, looks well placed to move the company into a more global entity.
Over the last five years, Dentsu Aegis Network revenues have doubled from £1.8 billion to £3.6 billion in 2017. The network has had a strong new business performance this year, winning the $300 million global Intel account and the global United Airlines media business, as well as holding on to $1.5 billion Microsoft.
DAN today announced 5.4 per cent organic growth in the third quarter of this year, with Japan registering 2.7 per cent which shows the increasing importance of North America to the network.
In his quote, Buhlmann says: “After nine years as CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network and before that Aegis Group plc, I am very proud of what the organisation has achieved in that time. The highlight for me has been working with a group of very talented people and the impact we have been able to make based on strong team work, a supportive parent company and a dynamic culture…. I have no doubt that the future will be very bright as the business moves to the next phase of its development.”