Katherine Levy: Aegis must make its moves quickly to fill the leadership void
A view from Katherine Levy

Katherine Levy: Aegis must make its moves quickly to fill the leadership void

Aegis is in the throes of change. It all started on the May bank holiday, when the then chief executive of Aegis Media EMEA, Simon Francis, updated his LinkedIn page to declare he no longer worked for the network. Next, Martyn Rattle and Malcolm Hunter, Aegis Media's chief client officer and chief client strategy officer respectively, were made redundant. What is going on?

Francis arrived at Aegis with a career made at OMD and Saatchi & Saatchi. He seemed bright, driven and proud of the business. While Aegis states that Francis' departure was by "mutual agreement", sources close to the situation suggest otherwise. Outsiders speculate that Jerry Buhlmann and Francis clashed, but this seems too easy a shot to make. Indeed, Francis comes across as a mini Buhlmann - he has the same brusque manner that comes with business players who want instant results.

Maybe the clashes came elsewhere in Aegis. Francis - while dynamic - can, according to some sources, have such a desire to effect change that he fails to bring everyone along with him. This in itself can work at the highest level, but only when you have the final word; the same criticism has been levelled at the likes of Mindshare's Nick Emery and Buhlmann himself.

Nigel Morris, the chief executive of Aegis Media Americas, has now also taken hold of the EMEA reins.

Morris, as the leading architect in Carat's $3 billion General Motors coup, is regarded internally as the light of the network.

Morris will run EMEA from his New York base - who knows how that will work with New York five hours behind us. He may be heavyweight, but not even a deity can be expected to take on the two biggest regions of a network that, combined, account for three-quarters of its revenue.

Aegis already streamlined its global structure in June last year, when Morris was handed the consolidated North and Latin America business. APAC and EMEA, led by Nick Waters and Francis, made up the rest of the Aegis markets.

But the idea that one man, however brilliant, will be able to run the Americas and EMEA is hard to accept. While a "chairman of the Western world" title would be apt, Aegis needs to move fast to decide how to divide Morris' duties.

Rattle and Hunter's redundancies, instigated by Nigel Sharrocks, are, Aegis says, not related to Francis. They are in line with a strategy to take the focus away from the more intangible Aegis umbrella brand and invest more in the five agency networks. This may be true - but when Aegis says that, for Rattle and Hunter, there are "no suitable alternative roles operating at their level at this time", it sounds fishy. We work in a business where if talent is appreciated, jobs are fashioned out of nowhere in order to keep hold of it.