MPG's Rodes to Replace Wahl as Havas CEO

09 March 2006

Two leading executives at Paris-headquartered agency holding company Havas are dancing a twosome reel to moves called by French corporate raider Vincent Bolloré.

Just eight months ago, after winning control of the globe's fifth-largest marketing services group and firing chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac [WAMN: 23-Jun-05], Bolloré appointed himself chairman and investment banker Philippe Wahl as chief executive.

It seemed clear to many at the time that Wahl, who lacked any hands-on knowledge of agencies, advertising or marketing, was a stop-gap appointee. And given the malaise afflicting Havas' share price at that time, a banker at its helm was no bad idea.

The more so as Jim Heekin, then chairman/ceo of Havas flagship network Euro RSCG and obvious successor to de Pouzilhac, was being ardently (and successfully) wooed by WPP to become ceo-designate of Grey Global Group.

Given this background, few eyebrows are likely to be raised now the inevitable has happened. According to Havas insiders, out goes Wahl and in comes the head of Havas' successful media-buying unit MPG Fernando Rodes, as the holding company's new chief executive

Although an official announcement has yet to be made, Bolloré on Monday whispered in the ear of French newspaper Le Figaro that Rodes is about to succeed Wahl, who will take up an appointment with Groupe Bolloré with oversight of its investment in Havas.

Although the French long ago solved their problèmes de noblesse via the guillotine, the nation's business aristocracy is very much alive and kicking.

Rodes has run MPG since its formation in 1999 via the merger of his family-owned company with Havas's former media division. And like the marriage-sealed power pacts of the old aristocracy, the union was celebrated with a substantial dowry: the Rodes's family becoming (and remaining) one of Havas's largest shareholders.

Fernando Rodes and his father Leopoldo Rodes Castane both sit on the Havas board of directors.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff