Will it be Randall Weisenburger, CFO of Omnicom or Jean-Michel Etienne, CFO of Publicis? In the end, the world’s second- and third-largest advertising agencies in revenue could not agree, and so their “merger of equals” collapsed on 9 May.
The combination would have created a global behemoth with a combined market capitalization of US$35 billion. US company Omnicom reported revenues of US$14.6 billion in 2013 while Publicis of France had US$9.2 billion in the same period.
Omnicom CEO John Wren, a former accountant, and Publicis chief executive Maurice Lévy had agreed to act as joint chief executives of the new entity for 30 months, after which Levy will become chairman of the board and Wren sole CEO.
But Wren was adamant that Weisenburger should be CFO, reportedly causing Levy to believe the deal was turning into a takeover. “The balance was not being respected,” Lévy told the Financial Times
“He wanted to have his CFO as CFO, and his general counsel as general counsel. So as you can see, the key position of the holding company would have been in the hands of Omnicom people and this was unacceptable.”
The last-minute snafu illustrates how crucial the post of the CFO has become in many of the world’s companies.
“The key dispute over who should be chief financial officer,” noted Reuters
, “would have influenced whether the new company will be inclined towards a centralized structure to manage costs, which Publicis argues has driven its higher margins, or Omnicom's more devolved approach.”
Both companies will now remain independent, with their respective CFOs presumably staying in place as well. Said Wren: “I think it would be a very long time before I try to do a merger of equals again.”