More Big Changes Coming to Publicis’ MSLGroup

By Patrick Coffee Comment

First things first: the pay freeze rumors are true.

Sources close to the matter confirm today that Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy has indeed put a freeze on hires, promotions and bonuses across the holding company until he says otherwise. These changes have made big waves at Publicis’ largest PR firm, MSLGroup, and we hear of top-level staffing and organizational changes there: several executives have departed or changed roles in recent weeks with more moves to come.

In fact, some observers see MSLGroup folding into the larger Publicis organization in the interest of efficiency as Levy’s team seeks to satisfy investors by further integrating its various properties.

MSL most recently made headlines for settling a class-action gender bias suit filed by more than 100 former female employees for $3 million. Here’s a partial list of recent changes atop its leadership ranks.

  • In June, Levy named longtime MSLGroup CEO Olivier Fleurot to the SVP position at the larger Publicis organization handling communications work around the world. He also picked Arthur Sadoun–current president of the Publicis Worldwide Network who many presume to be the top candidate for Levy’s own job–to “take responsibility for MSLGROUP’s future development,” effectively replacing Fleurot.
  • The following month, global practice director of social/digital media Stephanie Agresta and SVP/global and social strategy director Matt Dickman (who were coincidentally named to 2013’s “most influential agency execs on Twitter” list) also left. Dickman departed to take the head of digital communications role at Comcast while Agresta has yet to accept another agency position.
  • In August, the company moved global CFO Peter Miller to the interim president, North America role while asserting that he would retain his title as chief financial officer at MSL. Now, however, we hear that Publicis Worldwide CFO Ann Garreaud has assumed his previous responsibilities in overseeing MSLGroup’s financial concerns around the world.
  • Miller replaced North American president/former eBay executive Paul Newman, who also left the agency in August.
  • In September, the group poached Ron Guirguis from Edelman to serve as its U.S. CEO. Guirguis, who previously led the world’s largest corporate and public affairs practice, was hired to reset the MSL ship and work with Sadoun and global CEO Guillaume Herbette to put the organization “on a strong growth path to be one of the top agencies in the US.”

MSLGroup remains an agency in the midst of a sea change.

Today, a memo went out to all staff announcing that Scott Beaudoin, longtime leader of the group’s global corporate and brand citizenship practice, would be stepping down.

In the memo, Guirguis thanks Beaudoin for “all that he has done for the agency, in the U.S. and around the world,” writing that “We have already begun actively recruiting for Scott’s replacement and will be moving at full speed to find the right person to take the reins and build on the great work that this team is doing.”

The memo includes no word on where Beaudoin will go next, and neither he nor agency representatives responded to our requests for comment today. One source, however, tells us to expect more high-level defections thanks to a new leadership team that has chosen not to favor agency veterans.

A piece published last week on industry blog The Holmes Report addressed all the changes at MSLGroup, asking, “How much disruption is too much?” Expect an answer to emerge in coming weeks as talk of consolidation heats up and MSLGroup begins working more closely with its fellow Publicis agencies.

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