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David Jones Exits Havas

Bolloré, Benett replace him at holding company, ad agency

Havas CEO David Jones

David Jones is out as global CEO at the Havas holding company and its namesake ad agency.

At the holding company, Jones will be succeeded by Yannick Bolloré, the son of Havas investor Vincent Bolloré. And, at ad agency Havas Worldwide, global co-president Andrew Benett becomes the top executive.

Ricardo Monteiro, CEO of Havas Latin America, is taking over Benett's role as co-president, according to an internal Havas announcement. 

The Paris-based holding company said Jones, who became CEO of Havas Worldwide in 2009 and then took the helm of the holding company in 2011, will become co-founder and chief of an undisclosed tech start-up launching next month. He will be retained as an advisor to Havas throughout 2014.

Joining a Paris conference call today with Yannick Bolloré, Jones, from Las Vegas where he was attending CES, said: “This has nothing to do with Yannick and everything to do with my desire to start this new company.”

The start-up is a new social media and content platform which will give back a percentage of profits to charities and social causes.

The changes come in the wake of a power struggle between Jones and Benett in recent months amid speculation Benett was going over Jones’ head to establish a direct relationship with the younger Bolloré, whose father named him as his successor as chairman in August.

Benett and Jones have both been described as extremely ambitious. But after Jones diluted Benett's role in September, adding longtime Jones’ colleague and UK group chair Kate Robertson as global co-president, the knives were out, sources said. Benett had been building a power base at Havas in Paris, sources added, while Jones’s chief ally was Vincent Bolloré, who has left the holding company’s management to become chairman of Vivendi.  

Jones, in a call to Adweek, said his "resignation (made before Christmas) was 100 percent my idea" and that Vincent Bolloré "tried very hard to get me to stay." Jones added he was the one who wrote into Benett's contract that he would assume duties as Havas Worldwide's CEO this month.

In recent years, Havas Worldwide, previously known as Euro RSCG, lost clients like ExxonMobil, Jaguar and Heineken, along with U.S. accounts like Lean Cuisine, Triscuit and Charles Schwab. Just last month Reckitt Benckiser, the agency’s last big global brand, put three of its largest brands into review. (Jones was formerly Euro RSCG's global brand manager on Reckitt and that client relationship help propelled him to the CEO job at Havas’ flagship network.) The agency hasn’t replaced the same amount of business from those kinds of consumer brands and domestically Havas Worldwide increasingly gets more of its revenue from healthcare marketers, sources said.

The rub against Jones is that while these accounts have been leaving he has focused more on personal outside social change efforts like “One Young World,” a youth forum he co-founded with Robertson, and book writing efforts like “Who Cares Wins: Why Good Business Is Better Business.” Observers also questioned his recent investment strategy, such as buying a majority stake in crowd-sourcing agency Victors and Spoils in 2012 and in Socialistic a year before. (Socialistic was the social media start-up founded by former TBWA chief digital officer Colleen DeCourcy, who left it last year to become co-global ecd at Wieden + Kennedy.)

Meanwhile, at the New York office of Havas Worldwide, where Benett returned last January after serving as worldwide CEO at sister shop Arnold, there has been a revolving door of executives. Among the most recent changes: In November, CCO, global brands and New York chairman Lee Garfinkel departed, following Matt Ryan, who was co-chairman. Among Benett’s hires have been Darren Moran, New York CCO; Vin Farrell, global chief content officer; and Matt Weiss, global CMO.

Sources said that in recent weeks Benett was spending more time with Yannick Bolloré touring the U.S. At the same time, insiders perceived Jones, not seen much around New York agency offices, as becoming more marginalized within the shifting internal politics.

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