By Michael McCarthy
NEW YORK–Cordiant, which revealed a major restructuring plan only a week earlier, announced another surprising move last week, tapping outsider Kevin Roberts to succeed Ed Wax as chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide later this month.
Roberts has served on the client side his entire career, most recently with Lion Nathan, a beverage marketer, in New Zealand. He has also worked at Pepsi-Cola and Procter & Gamble.
‘It’s a great move; he’s a champion of creative,’ said Wax, 60, who will continue to serve as chairman through 1997 before becoming chairman emeritus. Wax, who has worked with Roberts as a client, plans to remain active with Saatchi for at least another four or five years.
His appointment on the heels of the demerger plan is ‘fantastic,’ said Roberts. ‘It’s a chance to be in at the end of the beginning,’ he said. ‘We have a fantastic brand with a great position.’ Roberts was not concerned about rumors that both Saatchi and Bates were takeover targets. ‘Everybody is a takeover target; you just have to perform,’ he said. The last outsider to take a senior role at Saatchi, John Fitzgerald, lasted only a few months.
Saatchi, which is positioning itself as a leading creative shop, will now be led by two executives with heavy client experience. Roberts will report to Bob Seelert, who will become chief executive officer of the planned Saatchi & Saatchi group. Both will be based in New York.
Bates may also undergo changes at the top. Michael Bungey, named chief executive of the Bates group, will likely relinquish some or all of his duties as chairman, ceo of Bates Worldwide.
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