The so-called "merger of equals" between ad/PR behemoths Omnicom and Publicis Groupe is giving the communications sector a bum rap.
While Omnicom CEO John Wren, 61, and Publicis boss Maurice Levy, 73, point to sticky global tax issues among reasons for the delay in officially tying the knot, most media reports focus on squabbling over the fate of CFOs Randy Weisenburger of OMC and Jean-Michel Etienne of Publicis.
Under the merger agreement, Wren and Levy will be co-CEOs for 30 months. Wren is then supposed to take over for Levy. How can Levy possibly agree to dump Jean-Michel in favor Randy? That would ultimately result in two Americans leading the merged business, a situation that would infuriate France’s government, which is fiercely protective of its national champions.
Also, how can the deservedly proud Levy hand over the keys of the kingdom to the OMC duo? What would that do to the spirit of Publicis?
Right from the start, the co-CEO idea was half-baked. Months later, it’s ready to come out of the oven. If Wren and Levy can’t iron out a major personnel issue, how would they possibly work as a team leading Publciom? It's never going to happen.
Instead of chasing the pipedream of a trans-Atlantic equal partnership sitting on top of the ad/PR heap, Wren and Levy should get on with it and call the whole mess off. If they mutually agree to split, there is no need to pony up for the $500M "termination" fee.
When first announced, the suitors predicted the deal would close by the end of 2013. The drawn-out transaction screams of indecision. That’s bad for the image of advertising and PR. And what are potential clients thinking of the mess?
Do you know anybody who is bullish on Publicom?