One of the industry's worst kept secrets has been confirmed. Publicis Gropupe's creative chief Arthur Sadoun has been chosen to succeed Maurice Lévy as Publicis Groupe CEO and chairman in June, concluding a recruitment process that has taken several years.
Sadoun will become only the third CEO of Publicis in its 90-year history. He will preside over the management board, which includes CFO and executive VP Jean-Michel Etienne, secretary general Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner and new member Publicis Media boss Steve King.
Lévy has been nominated to take on the role of chairman of the supervisory board – a move designed to ensure a smooth succession.
In December, as part of a tradition of making a video (in French and in English) for the festive season to wish staff and clients well for the New Year, Lévy played on the speculation around who would occupy his office when he retires in May with the hashtag #WhatNext.
“The highly respected professional qualities of Arthur Sadoun, his unique understanding of clients and their needs, his accomplishments both during his time at Publicis Groupe and before, and his human qualities, all make him the prime candidate,” says Elisabeth Badinter, who heads the supervisory board and nominating committee.
Sadoun, 45, has forged a strong reputation as one of the top executives within Publicis Groupe and was named Ad Age's executive of the year in 2016.
After the initial heir apparent Jean-Yves Naouri failed to convince he was suited to the role in 2014, the focus shifted to Sadoun, who was elevated into senior management to head the creative agency division of Publicis at the end of 2014.
Sadoun is a former CEO of Publicis in France, leading the agency to win a number of country's largest accounts, including BNP Paribas, Capgemini, Intermarché, Axa International and Yoplait as well as several industry awards.
Lévy, who has worked with Sadoun for several years, described him as a “seasoned professional with an inspiring vision of our industry and of our clients’ needs”.
“He knows them well, he understands them well and he knows how to deliver the solutions and services they need to grow, develop and transform by selecting the best talent,” Lévy says.
“He has the intelligence, the energy and the passion necessary to master our trade in a connected world that is changing and evolving constantly. He’s also a man with admirable human qualities.”
Lévy's tenure at the helm of Publicis Groupe has seen it grow from 3,000 people to a huge global group of creative, media and digital agencies with 80,000 staff, making it the third-largest advertising and marketing group in the world in terms of revenue.
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