Maurice Lévy has been forced to delay his retirement after David Kenny, the managing partner of Vivaki and a strong candidate to take the reins of Publicis Groupe, resigned last night after declining to move to Paris.
Lévy, 68, had not planned to renew his contract with Publicis Groupe when it expires at the end of 2011, has now been asked by the supervisory board – led by Elisabeth Badinter, the daughter of Publicis founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet – to stay on, reports The UK Guardian.
“To the question put to me by the supervisory board, I said that I would stay on board as long as needed,” Lévy said in a statement released last night. “I will make sure the transition happens when the time is right so that my succession takes place in the best possible conditions for [Publicis] Groupe, its clients, employees and shareholders”.
Kenny, who was de facto chief digital strategy officer and a driving force behind the $1.3 billion acquisition of Digitas, said that he could not relocate to Paris for family reasons. The fact that he was being lined up for a move to Paris suggests that Kenny, who was a member of the management board of Publicis Groupe, was being lined up to take over from Lévy.
Lévy said that Publicis Groupe had examined “further steps for his career” but that no route forward had been found. “We are parting on excellent terms and are working with David on new forms of collaboration with the group,” he said.
Jack Klues, Chairman, Publicis Groupe Media, will become CEO of the centralized digital unit VivaKi starting 7/1.
Jean-Yves Naouri, also seen as a strong candidate to take over from Lévy, has been appointed COO starting 7/1 as well. He was previously EVP/group operations.
The departure also opens the door for other possible candidates including Kevin Roberts, the chief executive of the Saatchi & Saatchi network, and Richard Pinder, who runs the Publicis network.