The troubles at Golden Square have moved into a new phase as Maurice Saatchi, 73, steps down from the board of M&C Saatchi along with the agency group’s three non-executive directors.
M&C Saatchi is insisting that it will continue to operate as it is, despite rumours of an Accenture Interactive bid for the more profitable parts of the business.
Chairman and founder Jeremy Sinclair said: “We have accepted the decision of these directors to resign. We are determined to restore the operational performance and profitability of the business and are already implementing all of the recommendations set out in the PwC report we announced last week. We had started a process to reconstruct our Board with new independent directors. This new Board will have a mandate to conduct a full review of all aspects of our governance.”
The non-executive directors who have “stepped down” are Lorna Tilbian, a media analyst and stockbroker who joined M&C’s board in 2018 as its first female NED; Michael Dobbs, Conservative peer and author of the original House of Cards novel; and Michael Peat, a former KPMG accountant who was Prince Charles’ private secretary from 2002 to 2011.
2020 should mark the 25th anniversary of M&C Saatchi but it’s not looking like there will be much to celebrate, and the agency may be taken over and pulled to pieces before it can match the longevity of the original Saatchi & Saatchi, which made it — just — to a quarter century.
It will be interesting to see if they can recruit new NEDs to the board, as M&C claim they are doing. Campaign reports that the outgoing NEDs were the ones who had been pushing for greater scrutiny of the accounts, where the irregularities included treating outdated software and furnishings as assets on the balance sheet when they should have been written down.
Maurice’s fellow founders and executive directors — Bill Muirhead (73), Jeremy Sinclair (73) and CEO David Kershaw (65) – will stay in place for now. The four men together own 20 per cent of the agency and 100 per cent of the swagger, sitting in their seventh floor offices in one of Soho’s prime locations as if it were still the 90s.
They may be big names that conjure up the past glories of UK advertising, but bad corporate governance looks distinctly old school these days and there’s no room for sentimentality now, not when there’s an £11.6 million hole in the accounting.