The Power Players in the Publicis-Omnicom Merger

Who may be in line to lead

The completion of the Publicis Groupe-Omnicom merger will likely be pushed back to the second quarter, pending regulatory approvals. But that delay is doing little to stem speculation about which executives will influence the integration that will form the ad industry’s largest player. Until the deal is done, the two are still competitors. Because of that, discussions remain at a corporate rather than operational level and center on understanding combined capabilities, according to sources. Executive moves will, of course, depend on whether Paris-based Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy or Omnicom chief John Wren, in New York, becomes the dominant force in the co-CEO structure. (The betting money right now is on Wren leading the charge.) While in no way a definitive list, these are several of the players who could help steer the new Publicis Omnicom Group—some obvious, others not so much.

Randy Weisenburger

CFO, Omnicom Group

Wren first met the investment banker in the late ’90s at their daughters’ primary school in Greenwich, Conn. He convinced Weisenburger, then CEO at Wasserstein & Co., to move to Omnicom as CFO in 1999, and the two have worked closely ever since. (They are the face of Omnicom’s lean holding company, and in recent years Weisenburger was seen as a possible Wren heir.) Respected and familiar with Wall Street’s ways, Weisenburger is considered a shoo-in for a top job, particularly if Wren calls the shots. But Publicis Groupe CFO Jean-Michel Etienne was involved in acquisitions like Saatchi & Saatchi, Bcom3, Digitas and Razorfish and possesses major integration experience Weisenburger lacks. Etienne might become CFO at the merged company (which will now have more European investors), with Weisenburger taking the COO role.

Andrew Robertson

President, CEO, BBDO Worldwide

Robertson is the best-regarded among Omnicom agency chiefs—even the recent losses of Gillette and Bank of America haven’t tarnished that reputation. Known for his client expertise and professional standing, he was the favorite to succeed Wren before the merger announcement. Now any succession plan has been pushed back, and some wonder whether the 53-year-old, who marks his 10th anniversary as BBDO chief this year, is getting restless and looking for a challenge elsewhere. If the well-compensated Robertson—who reportedly has incentives not to leave for another agency job—gets disenchanted, he might look outside the ad business. (He is said to have had discussions in the past about a top job at HBO.) But if he stays at Publicis Omnicom, he may inherit an even bigger prize.

Troy Ruhanen

Evp, Omnicom Group

Ruhanen’s promotion in October to a holding company job, where he’s handling larger clients and forging cross-agency collaboration, is the latest move in grooming the exec for a bigger role. Since he joined BBDO New York in 2004, Ruhanen has run the agency’s billion-dollar AT&T business and climbed the ranks to become CEO of the Americas, BBDO’s largest region. The Australian moved to BBDO from Sydney, where he ran Publicis’ Leo Burnett. (He understands merger integration, having overseen Burnett’s acquisition of Cartwright Williams and D’Arcy.) Ruhanen is known in both corporate camps and in recent years was rumored to be in the running for a top job at both Burnett and Omnicom’s TBWA. Now, with nearly half of the industry’s networks under one company, there will be even more leadership opportunities for this upwardly mobile exec.

Arthur Sadoun

Global CEO, Publicis

Sadoun is a Publicis Groupe rising star and was named global chief executive of its namesake agency in October, but the jury is out on how he will fare on a bigger stage. He is famous in France, with his TV personality wife and a life that’s covered in the pages of Paris Match. But his early success at Paris shop Publicis Conseil hasn’t been matched at Publicis France and Europe. (Sadoun knows Omnicom: Before Publicis, he ran TBWA Paris and sold an agency to BBDO.) Sadoun replaced Publicis global executive chairman Jean-Yves Naouri, who was thought to be in line for Lévy’s job; now it’s unclear if Naouri will stay. That said, Naouri may handle shared services at the merged companies, something he did well at Publicis Groupe.