Havas Installs Rodés as CEO

NEW YORK Agency holding company Havas today named Fernando Rodés Vila CEO, replacing Philipe Wahl, a French banker who was installed in the post eight months ago. The move had been expected [Adweek Online, March 8].

Rodés also serves as chief executive of Havas’ Barcelona, Spain-based MPG media network and now adds global oversight for ad agency networks Euro RSCG in New York and Arnold in Boston.

Havas confirmed the appointment after a special board meeting in Paris, where the company also released its complete 2005 earnings. Havas reported an 8 percent rise in net income to $70 million on a 2 percent drop in revenue to $1.7 billion in 2005, compared to the previous year. Operating income, however, dipped 26 percent to $152 million last year from 2004.

The company cited several expenses contributing to the operating income drop, including $12 million for the severance package of ousted CEO Alain de Pouzilhac, $13 million in litigation expenses and $25 million in goodwill impairment.

Company chairman Vincent Bolloré had been said to favor Rodés for the CEO post, though he previously denied offering him the job [Adweek Online, Jan. 4]. Wahl, a longtime Bolloré ally, is expected to get take a post at the latter’s Bolloré Group operation.

Both Fernando Rodés and his father Leopoldo Rodés Castane sit on Havas’ board, and the family owns a portion of the company.

The family supported Bolloré during his successful bid to take control of Havas last summer. Elevating Fernando Rodés, sources said, would be the first step in a new Bolloré plan to place a greater emphasis on media services.

That plan likely still includes forming an alliance between Havas and London-based media holding company Aegis Group, parent of Carat, per sources.

Sources said talks between Bolloré (Aegis’ largest single shareholder with a stake larger than 25 percent) and Aegis management continue.

Last fall, Bolloré had conversations with WPP Group and San Francisco-based investment firm Hellman & Friedman about jointly acquiring Aegis. No deal materialized.

Both Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy and WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell this year have publicly stated their continued interest in Aegis.

Earlier in the week Arnold set the stage for the eventual retirement of its longtime guiding force, Ed Eskandarian, who has turned over the U.S. CEO title to president and COO Fran Kelly. Eskandarian, 69, will remain as chairman and CEO of the Arnold Worldwide Partners umbrella company, and as recently as last month said he had no plan to retire. Eskandarian will likely remain at the agency at least through year’s end, probably longer, the shop said.

Arnold creative chief Ron Lawner has been named vice chairman and global chief creative officer, a new position. Pam Hamlin and Pete Favat have been tasked with running the Boston headquarters office, with Hamlin as president and Favat as chief creative officer.

—with David Gianatasio