Bolloré Appoints Himself Havas Chairman, Wahl as CEO

14 July 2005

Little point in buying yourself a train set if you don't get to play with the trains.

French corporate raider Vincent Bolloré, having acquired a controlling stake in the globe's fifth largest agency holding company and engineered the departure of its chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac [WAMN: 23-Jun-05], this week appointed himself chairman of Havas.

In an eyebrow-raising move, he also appointed Philippe Wahl as chief executive. Wahl, from a senior banking background, is long on financial expertise but lacks hands-on knowledge of agencies, advertising or marketing.

Many believe his appointment reflects the likelihood that Jim Heekin, chairman-ceo of Havas' flagship agency network Euro RSCG Worldwide, and the most likely internal candidate, will shortly depart the struggling group.

WPP Group's Sir Martin Sorrell is reportedly wooing Heekin to become ceo designate of Grey Worldwide on Ed Meyer's imminent retirement. Word within Havas is that Heekin met Tuesday night with Bolloré who asked him to remain at Euro RSCG. The absence of his name from Havas' latest management line-up speaks volumes

As part of Havas' restructuring, three new names - insiders all - have been appointed to the main board as vice-chairmen. They are Ed Eskandarian, ceo of Arnold Worldwide Partners; Jacques Seguela, Havas' chief creative officer; and Fernando Rodes, ceo of MPG.

In the interim, Bolloré continued his charm offensive in an attempt to ally concerns that he plans to dismember and sell parts of Havas.

"My personal contribution at the head of the Havas Group demonstrates the long-term commitment of the Bolloré Group to the strategic development and growth of Havas and its activities," he said.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff