In Surprise Move, WPP Names a New Global CEO at Media Agency MEC

Tim Castree will take over as Charles Courtier steps down

Today WPP named Tim Castree as global chief executive officer of MEC, the media agency that is a key part of WPP's media investment unit GroupM.

The move came as a surprise to some observers as current CEO Charles Courtier announced plans to resign from his position after more than 14 years with the MEC network in order to "focus on interests outside the company."

The transition will become official as of January 2017, with Courtier remaining in an unspecified role at WPP through the middle of next year. In the new position, Castree will report directly to GroupM global CEO Kelly Clark in New York and oversee MEC's 5,000 employees in 93 countries.

"I am immensely proud of what we've achieved at MEC and honored to have worked with such unique people at such a genuinely special agency," said Courtier in a statement. "However, it is the right time for me to move on and start a second life."

Global GroupM chairman Irwin Gotlieb said, "Charles was instrumental in MEC's global expansion; he leaves MEC with a strong culture focused on delivering client growth and a long run among the top five agencies in the world."

In a statement, Clark called Castree "a proven leader who will bring vision and energy to MEC," adding, "his broad range of client, agency and geographic experiences will help the MEC team continue to grow."

Castree had spent much of his career with Publicis Groupe as CEO of Leo Burnett Australia and chief operating officer at MediaVest in the U.S. before leaving to serve as managing director of programmatic ad-tech platform Videology in 2014. Videology has a well-established relationship with WPP, and in 2013, Digiday reported that the firm had allowed GroupM (which also has a financial investment in the company) to trade equity for media spending along with other agency partners.

MEC currently manages more than $25 billion in annual spending, but it has lost some significant pieces of business in recent months. The most prominent being AT&T's $2 billion North American media account, which went to Hearts & Science when the telecommunications giant consolidated its marketing portfolio with Omnicom in August after completing the long-planned $50 billion acquisition of DirecTV.