Robert LePlae, a former regional leader at McCann Erickson  and TBWA , is joining Arnold in the new position of global president, starting Sept. 15. The 51-year-old LePlae will be based in New York and work closely with global CEO Andrew Benett, who sees the hire principally as a means to accelerate growth.
Why does Arnold need a global president?
[Because of] three areas of growth. Revenue, where we’ve had tremendous growth. Second, international footprint. We’re adding more and more offices that are becoming meaningful. We’ll have 75 people at the end of this year in Shanghai. We have 50 or 60 people in Amsterdam. It’s not like these are two-person outposts. Third, we’re growing and adding more and more services. We’re getting into the design business. We launched a [customer relationship management] practice this year.
Will Robert have account responsibilities?
He will. I can’t talk about [which accounts]. But our model is to have all senior executives, including myself, to own different client relationships. So, he’ll own a handful, just as I do.
What set Robert apart from other candidates for this job?
He shares the values of the company. He is a very decent person and a very good leader. The second reason is obviously his expertise. And he has run networks both at a North American level and at a global level. So, he understands the dynamics. Thirdly, he’s just a proven, accomplished leader. Look at what he’s done and his track record. Take where he was for a longer period, at TBWA. A lot of the success there isn’t just him, but him and the team that he built around him.
You’re in 11 cities outside the U.S. How many more do you need?
Not many more. We’ve kind of spent the last 2 ½ years building the network, in some cases by joint ventures, in some cases by rebranding and assuming the operation of different Havas companies. So, yeah, the only other place where we would be want to be is India and we’re looking at that.
You laid a lot of the groundwork for this international expansion in the last couple of years. Does hiring Robert change the focus of your job or make it more manageable?
(Laughs). The job is never manageable, but having him around helps all of us. It helps me and the management team that’s already in place. Three years ago, we developed a five-year strategic plan for the company. There’s a lot to still do. So, we felt it was important that we just continue that momentum.
What do you hope Robert will accomplish by this time next year?
If he could do here what he did at TBWA, that will be terrific. And he’ll bring his own ideas too. So, we’re looking forward to that. You know, we’re looking at San Francisco right now, as another potential [new market]. The only place where we’d expand in the U.S. would be San Francisco. We have University of Phoenix as a new client. They’re based in San Francisco. So we actually have a founding client for San Francisco. They’d like some people there. There’s great talent in San Francisco—more than the size of the market—and Robert knows the market incredibly well.