David Kenny, the architect of Publicis Groupe's digital strategy, is leaving the holding company.
Kenny served as managing partner of VivaKi, the Publicis unit that oversaw its digital efforts, which included the acquisitions of Digitas, where Kenny was CEO, and Razorfish. He also served as a member of the company's management board.
"The possible future evolutions for David Kenny would have implied relocating to Paris, which was not possible for family reasons," Publicis said in a statement. Kenny was based in Boston, where Digitas is headquartered.
The only position left for him at Publicis was the CEO job, which wouldn't be in Boston, so it wasn't an option he could consider, Kenny said.
"Paris is lovely but my family doesn't live there," he said. "It wasn't worth it."
Kenny said he would take the summer to evaluate his options. Returning to the agency world is unlikely, he said. Instead, he would consider leadership roles in media, technology or private equity.
"I couldn't responsibly look at other things until I closed that chapter," he added.
Separately, longtime holding company CEO Maurice Levy said he would stay beyond the expiration of his contract at the end of next year. The firm said its supervisory board "has unanimously asked Maurice Levy to carry on his mission beyond December 31, 2011. Maurice Levy has agreed to oversee the transition period for as long as needed."
In a statement Levy, 68, said: "I said that I would stay on board as long as needed. I will make sure the transition happens when the time is right so that my succession takes place in the best possible conditions for the Groupe, its clients, employees and shareholders."
Publicis said Jack Klues would take over sole responsibility for VivaKi as CEO. Jean-Michel Etienne will join the company's management board to replace Kenny on July 1.
Of VivaKi, Kenny said: "It's got great potential. It's the biggest customer of most of the digital players. The combination of weight, technology, scale and the first and second global digital brands in Digitas and Razorfish is a great hand. It's a lot about execution and the investment in technology to take it to the next level."
Publicis bought Digitas in December 2006 for $1.3 billion. The move became the centerpiece of CEO Levy's drive to remake the holding company as a player in digital advertising and marketing services. It followed up the Digitas acquisition by purchasing Razorfish from Microsoft last August for $530 million.
Kenny served as CEO of Digitas for a decade from 1997 until its purchase by Publicis. Prior to that, he spent nine years at management consulting firm Bain & Co. Following the Digitas acquisition, in June 2008, Publicis created VivaKi to spearhead its digital strategy. It appointed Klues and Kenny managing partners. Publicis was the most active of the major ad holding companies in acquisitions, especially in the digital arena. In addition to Razorfish, it inked a deal with Google to purchase search specialist Performics. Levy earlier this week told The Wall Street Journal that Publicis is finished with major acquisitions since "there is nothing big left to buy." The company boasts that digital now accounts for 27 percent of its revenue.
Also today, Publicis said Jean-Yves Naouri, evp, group operations, is being promoted to chief operating officer of Publicis Groupe on July 1.
With the expiration of Levy's contract nearing, speculation has mounted recently about his successor. Paris-based Naouri and Kenny have frequently been mentioned as the most probable candidates, but few insiders believe a non-French executive would ever get Levy's job. Elisabeth Badinter, the French daughter of Publicis founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, is chairman of the company's supervisory board and wields considerable behind-the-scenes influence.
See also: "Publicis Sees 3.1% Revenue Spike"