Havas to Name Rodés CEO

BOSTON Management changes are afoot this week at agency holding company Havas, with Fernando Rodés Vila to take over the CEO mantle from Philipe Wahl, a French banker who was installed in the post eight months ago, according to sources.

Rodés currently serves as chief executive of Havas’ MPG media network.

The change will be made at Havas’ board meeting on Friday, per sources. Rodés would retain operational control of MPG, adding global oversight for ad agency networks Euro RSCG in New York and Arnold in Boston.

Company chairman Vincent Bolloré had been said to favor Rodés for the CEO post, though he has denied offering him the job [Adweek Online, Jan. 4].

Havas representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Separately, Arnold set the stage for the eventual retirement of its longtime guiding force, Ed Eskandarian, who has turned over the U.S. CEO title to president and COO Fran Kelly. Eskandarian, 69, will remain as chairman and CEO of the Arnold Worldwide Partners umbrella company, and as recently as last month said he had no plan to retire.

Eskandarian will likely remain at the agency at least through year’s end, probably longer, the shop said today.

Arnold creative chief Ron Lawner has been named vice chairman and global chief creative officer, a new position. Pam Hamlin and Pete Favat have been tasked with running the Boston headquarters office, with Hamlin as president and Favat as chief creative officer.

John Staffen has been named chief creative officer of Arnold’s New York office. A search is underway for a president in New York to partner with Staffen. (Kelly had handled that role.)

At the holding company level, both Fernando Rodés and his father Leopoldo Rodés Castane sit on Havas’ board, and the family owns a portion of the company.

The Rodés family supported Bolloré during his successful bid to take control of Havas last summer. Elevating Fernando Rodés, sources said, would be the first step in a new Bolloré plan to place a greater emphasis on media services.

That plan likely still includes forming an alliance between Havas and London-based media holding company Aegis Group, parent of Carat, per sources.

Shortly after taking control of Havas, Bolloré began acquiring shares in Aegis and now owns more than 25 percent of the company. Under U.K. law, that ownership stake is sufficient to veto any takeover of Aegis by an outside party.

Last fall, Bolloré had conversations with WPP Group and San Francisco-based investment firm Hellman & Friedman about jointly acquiring Aegis. No deal materialized.

Both Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy and WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell have publicly stated this year their continued interest in Aegis, which could complicate whatever plan Bolloré has for a Havas-Aegis tie.

—with Steve McClellan