Gwyn Jones has unexpectedly stepped down as CEO of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, two years after Publicis Groupe took full control of the London-based agency.
Jones, who has spent his entire 27-year career at BBH in a series of successively larger roles, will leave at the end of the year, giving way to Neil Munn, the shop's global chief operating officer and a former marketing leader at Unilever.
Munn will become just the fourth CEO in the agency's 32-year history and joins the (thin) ranks of former client-side leaders who have run global creative agencies. The most notable example of that is Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, who had never worked at an ad agency when he took control of Saatchi in 1997.
"Neil is perfect casting for what is now needed from the group CEO," said BBH Group chairman Simon Sherwood, adding that BBH is now a mature business owned by a holding company. "He has proper marketing and comms pedigree, is highly commercial with a deep understanding of client organizations and brands and has a truly global perspective. I know that his leadership style will be very effective for the business we now are."
Jones took the reins of BBH in July 2012, when Publicis Groupe shifted from 49 percent minority investor in BBH to full owner. At the time, he succeeded Sherwood, who had held the top job for four years and became chairman. (Like Munn, Jones and Sherwood had been COO before assuming the top job.)
Jones joined BBH as a graduate trainee in 1987 and ran the U.K. and U.S. operations before joining the global management ranks. As CEO, he focused on finding the right leaders in New York, maintaining BBH's high creative standards worldwide and branching out into new ventures, including this summer's launch of a new production company with Scooter Braun's SB Projects.
"BBH has the best culture going; it isn't easy to leave," Jones said. "But 27 years is a long time and variety is the spice of life. So, when I've taken a break, I have some other investments and opportunities that I want to pursue and maybe spend a little less time on planes."
Munn joined BBH 10 years ago, after serving as global marketing director on Unilever's Axe, a brand that BBH creates ads for in several markets, including the U.S. Among other things, at BBH Munn helped launch Zag, a unit for creating new brands. He had served as COO for two years.
Once Munn becomes CEO, the COO responsibilities will be absorbed by CFO David Pearce and Niall Hadden, global head of talent. As such, the agency will no longer have a COO.