SURESNES, FRANCE: Havas chairman and CEO Alain de Pouzilhac stepped down last week in response to intense pressure brought to bear by dissident shareholder Vincent Bollore and his supporters.
The holding company announced that Richard Colker, an independent director and chairman of the company's audit committee, will serve as interim chairman and CEO while Havas seeks a permanent replacement.
Colker will be supported by three directors, who will "take responsibility for the group's functions," the company said.
De Pouzilhac will remain on the company's board.
Aaron Kwittken, CEO of Havas-owned Euro RSCG Magnet, said that Havas' decentralized operational structure means that the leadership change is unlikely to have a major impact on day-to-day US PR operations. But he expressed optimism for the future of the holding company.
"We're happy that [the leadership issues are] being addressed, quite frankly," he said. "It's momentum, it's communication, it's dialogue, which is all heading in the right direction."
Havas has not announced any timeline for naming de Pouzilhac's replacement.
Bollore owns nearly 25% of Havas' shares. Earlier this month he won four seats on the company's board, which was seen as a blow to de Pouzilhac, who has clashed with Bollore publicly over the company's direction.
Since losing its bid for Grey Global to WPP last year, Havas has been in a difficult position, poised precariously between the giant holding companies and the smaller, more agile boutiques.
French and American media have floated the name of Jean-Marie Dru, head of TBWA Worldwide, as a likely successor to de Pouzilhac. No formal accord had been reached with Dru, however, by late last week.
Havas' PR agencies include Euro RSCG Magnet and Abernathy MacGregor.