Cordiant considers Hearn promotion to reassure investors

Cordiant's chief executive, Michael Bungey, is expected to bring in the chairman and chief executive of Bates Worldwide, David Hearn, as his chief operating officer, in a bid to placate shareholders worried about the operation's recent poor performance.

The promotion is seen as a pre-emptive strike designed to secure the future of Cordiant, whose share price has come under intense pressure following a number of account losses, including Hyundai and CVS Pharmacy.

This culminated the recent loss of the £130 million account for the US hamburger chain Wendy's to Interpublic, and the share price dropping to half of what it was a year ago.

The fund management group Active Venture has led calls for a change at the top of Cordiant in a bid to turn around the fortunes of the ailing network.

Active Venture has recently upped its stake in Cordiant to a 9 per cent share and is now its second-biggest shareholder after Harris Associates, which also wants senior management changes at the company.

Observers have suggested that the two fund management companies are keen to make Cordiant more attractive for a takeover by the Havas network.

According to reports in The Mail on Sunday, Bungey's job is safe, but the job of Cordiant's chairman, Charlie Scott, is under scrutiny.

The British-born Hearn only joined Bates in March, having previously worked as the chief executive of the Australian food group Goodman Fielder.

Hearn joined the company to replace Bill Whitehead, who left following the loss of Hyundai.

A spokesman for Cordiant said there were no imminent plans to promote Hearn, but they would not rule it out.

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