Close-Up: Newsmaker - Stepping from the shadows at Burnett

Is the little-known Andrew Edwards the right man to replace Bruce Haines? Noel Bussey reports.

It isn't often that the biggest news of the week emanates from West London's Kensington Village. But, last week, Bruce Haines, the group chairman of Leo Burnett, resigned from the agency he has run for the past four years.

A new senior management line-up was almost instantly announced: Andrew Edwards, the chairman of Arc EMEA and the managing director of Arc London, will become the group chief executive, and Paul Lawson, the managing director of Leo Burnett London, will become the group managing director.

This will also lead to a new group structure, as the pair begin a process of integration between Arc and Burnett, something the network has already carried out in many other markets around the world.

The changes were announced in a press release written with practically unheard of candour, given the sensitivity of the situation.

Gone was the saccharine back-slapping that usually accompanies a major resignation, and in its place were some very frank words from both sides.

These included comments from Haines about being "unable to reach an agreement with Tom (Bernardin, the chairman and chief executive of Leo Burnett Worldwide) over some key issues".

Bernardin himself said: "Bruce and I have agreed to differ on some important issues", strongly hinting at a major problem behind the scenes - one that goes beyond the need for greater integration at Burnett.

Word from inside the agency seems to point at a major disagreement over future plans for the agency. One party insists Haines' resignation came because he disagreed with Bernardin's decision over the management that should lead the new group structure.

Haines allegedly thought it should be himself and Lawson running the show, with no place for the largely unknown Edwards.

However, Bernardin is adamant the disagreement was purely a structural one, and had nothing to do with personnel changes.

"I wanted action and wasn't getting it. This is where the disagreement came from," he says. "It is untrue to say that there was a solid plan for a two-person leadership team that would end up leaving someone out in the cold."

Another insider points out that the network may have just run out of patience with the speed in which the former management team was instigating the integration.

Bernardin says the integration will happen in weeks, not months: "The companies will remain as two separate brands with one P&L. But you will see departments, such as creative, being run across both of the businesses. Within a year, this will bring us a higher level of creativity, and, therefore, much more positive financial results."

Edwards adds: "One creative will run the creative department, one planner will run the planning department. Where we don't have the skill-set, we'll invest. The UK is definitely a priority market."

Received wisdom points to Arc's struggles in the UK market as the main motive for the integration.

Bernardin, however, also refutes this. "Before Andrew joined Arc London a couple of years ago, it was struggling, but after making some tough decisions, the agency is really firing again and looks in good health," he says.

"At the same time, Burnett has done relatively well, but may not be as robust as a few years ago. With the combination of Paul and Andrew, I am very excited that both of these will improve, as will the quality of the work and the offering to our clients."

Another challenge facing Edwards will be his ability to raise his profile in the bastion of incestuous gossip-mongering that is the London agency scene. He ruefully concedes that the back story to Haines' departure may have stolen some of his much-needed limelight.

Edwards began his career working in a number of direct marketing agencies in the UK before moving to Australia in 1983.

Despite being born and bred in Wales, he possesses something resembling an Australian accent, which often confuses people as to where he's from - something he admits he enjoys playing up to.

After a brief stint back in the UK, Edwards and his wife returned to Australia in 1985, when he joined the DM company Cartwright Williams. After a few months, he bought 50 per cent of the shares and "grew the company from almost bankruptcy to having more than 50 staff and offices in Singapore and Sydney".

"We had also been doing a lot of work with Burnett, which seemed to be showing an interest, so we sold to it. In 2000 we changed our name to iLeo," he explains.

When Burnett merged with D'Arcy, iLeo merged into Arc, and Edwards became the managing director with a place on the global board.

Edwards subsequently began forging a reputation in Australia by picking up a number of accolades, including agency of the year in 2002, a year in which it was the most-awarded global DM agency.

He then took the managing director role at Burnett in 2003 and brought both companies together. It was at this time when he started working with Nigel Marsh, the Burnett Australia chairman. The pair remain good friends.

"We inherited something that wasn't very good, but, with some hard work, by 2005 we were head of the new-business league and putting out some fantastic work. All this was done after coming from out of the gutter," Edwards says.

It was after then that Bernardin saw Edwards' talents may be better used in the Arc network, and gave him the position of chairman of Arc EMEA - which he then extended to managing director of Arc London following the departure of John Quarry.

Richard Pinder, who worked with Edwards during his time running Arc EMEA, says: "If anyone in London moans that he is not in the IPA or goes to the same restaurant every day, then they need to realise that the agency scene is changing - and it needs people like Andrew. Clients and staff find him credible. He grows businesses quickly and entices great talent into the companies he runs. You don't get five promotions in seven years through being a muppet."

Described by friends as a workaholic, Edwards' passions are golf and boating in what free time he can muster. He's also a passionate rugby fan, understandable given his Welsh heritage and Australian background.

During his time in Australia, he played regularly, but his most impressive performances, in his mind, came before he left these shores when playing scrum-half for Chobham and then for Surrey. "It was a little different back then. Playing for your county was one of the highest accolades," he says.

Edwards' affection for Marsh is clear when he discusses his former colleague. The same can be said for when he talks about Lawson. "It's very similar," Edwards says. We have different characteristics, but we work together as a team; he brings enthusiasm and energy to any meeting, which drives me on."

And Pinder agrees. "I'm a real fan of Paul's. He's a great talent and exceptionally enthusiastic," he says. "Andrew will be good for him because he will bring some discipline and focus his energy."

And with Bernardin echoing these views and putting so much faith in the pair, the integration he seeks may well be just around the corner with the spirit of Haines becoming a distant memory.

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 46
Lives: Ascot
Family: Wife Susie; daughters Amy (13) and Holly (ten); dog Daisy (Great
Dane)
Most treasured possession: Manly Golf Club four-ball winners trophy
Favourite TV programme: Anything on Sky Sports 1
Favourite website: Asx.com.au
Motto: Actions speak louder than words

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