NEW YORK: MSLGroup has promoted Renee Wilson to president of North America, replacing Jim Tsokanos. She will start in the new role September 10 after a short transition period.
Wilson will oversee the Publicis Groupe agency's operations in the US and Canada. She is currently chief client officer at the firm and has served as MD of the agency's flagship New York office. Wilson has worked with clients such as Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Bayer, Kellogg, and Tiffany. MSL added Wilson to its global board in January.
“[Wilson] is the ideal candidate to become president of North America because she's run our main office in New York and has been in charge of our largest client, Procter & Gamble,” said MSLGroup CEO Olivier Fleurot. “It's an important time, and the beginning of a new era.”
Tsokanos, who has worked at MSLGroup for 11 years, will leave the agency for a “more entrepreneurial venture,” the company said.
MSLGroup and parent Publicis are facing a class action lawsuit alleging gender pay discrimination. Monique da Silva, a former healthcare director at MSL, filed the $100 million class action suit in February 2011 seeking to represent women who worked at the agency from 2008 until the date of judgment. It alleges MSL and the holding company paid female professionals less; did not promote women at the same rate as male counterparts; and conducted discriminatory demotions, terminations, and reassignments for female staffers during the agency's 2009 reorganization.
In April, MaryEllen O'Donohue, Laurie Mayers, Heather Pierce, and Katherine Wilkins were added as plaintiffs to the suit.
Court documents filed in the suit describe senior male executives at the firm, including Tsokanos and Washington MD Neil Dhillon, behaving in a derogatory manner towards female employees.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against MSLGroup sent notices earlier this month inviting other women to join the action. Recipients have 60 days from the date of the notice's mailing to join the lawsuit. Once other potential plaintiffs opt into the class, MSL and Publicis can try to decertify the suit by arguing there was no widespread discrimination.
The firm declined to comment on litigation against it.
Paulo Andreoli, CEO of Andreoli MSL Brazil, will continue to manage the firm's Latin America operations, reporting directly to Fleurot. It is understood that MSLGroup will split the Americas region into two divisions: North America, comprised of the US and Canada, and Latin and South America.
Tsokanos was named president for North America at MSLGroup predecessor Manning Selvage & Lee in December 2007. He joined MS&L eight years before that as SVP and deputy MD of the firm's Atlanta office and later served as MD of the New York office.
“[Tsokanos] is still a young guy and he's been discussing with me the possibility to do something more entrepreneurial because his job became bigger and bigger, and it took him away from clients into a more managerial role,” said Fleurot. “We think now is the right time for him to do so.”
Under Tsokanos' leadership, MSLGroup continued to build Publicis' PR function. The holding company acquired Boston-based Schwartz Communications last year, merging it into MSL and rebranding it Schwartz MSL.
The agency saw single-digit revenue growth in 2011, with nearly 20% of that in emerging markets. MSLGroup acquired Poland's Ciszewski PR, which specializes in financial and tech communications and China's Genedigi Group and ICL. The firm reported 2011 US revenue between $150 million and $200 million, with 15% growth in profitability in the US, according to PRWeek's 2012 Agency Business Report.