Like a wedding minus the bride or a birthday sans the celebrant, Havas on Monday met with financial journalists and analysts to discuss its 2005 results, released that day [WAMN: 13-Mar-06].

Only one essential element was missing. New chief executive Fernando Rodes, appointed last week. Which may explain why the event was so sparsely attended.

And it was not only Rodes who failed to show. Havas chairman and majority shareholder Vincente Bolloré was also conspicuous by his absence.

Bravely defending Fort Havas, departing ceo Philipe Wahl, accompanied by cfo Herve Philippe, explained: "Today we are talking about 2005. The person who has managed the group for the past six months is me. Fernando will have another occasion to present the future of the group."

Last year, Wahl admitted was "difficult". As will likely be the first half of 2006. "It is important for us to be honest," he said, twice iterating that "the group in the past has produced many strategic speeches and little results, and we want to do the opposite."

However, with one bound he was free. "As of 5pm today," Wahl told his audience, "I'm taking a job at the Bolloré Group as vp in charge of media and communications. I've got an office and an email."

Asked several times if there are discussions between Aegis Group and Havas (Bolloré also owns 25% of London-based Aegis), Wahl replied: "At the moment, there is no discussion between Aegis and Havas, between Aegis and MPG, and between Aegis and its shareholder Mr Bolloré. It is not impossible that this non-discussion stops."

He then switched to waggish mode, explaining: "This is English understatement."

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