NEW YORK: MSLGroup has hired eBay VP of communications Paul Newman to take over from Renee Wilson as president of its North America operations.
British-born Newman will start in the job on March 31, at which time Wilson will move to a new role as chief client officer. He will initially live in New York City during the week and commute back to his Boston base at weekends.
Newman told PRWeek: “[Wilson] has done a great job, and I will be working very closely with her in her new role to build on that.”
At eBay, Newman ran international corporate communications, consumer PR, and employee comms. He reported to SVP of corporate communications Alan Marks, with a dotted line to the presidents of the company's Europe, Asia-Pacific, and emerging markets divisions. EBay's PayPal subsidiary is a client of MSLGroup, and that is how Newman principally knows the Publicis Groupe agency.
“I was attracted to the [MSL] job by the firm's great clients, such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble,” said Newman. “MSL is a true global agency and there is huge ambition here about the opportunities for MSL in the US.”
Earlier in his career, Newman spent 14 years at Interpublic Group's largest PR firm, Weber Shandwick. He said he has worked with “at least 50 different agencies over the years.” At Weber, he worked in Europe, the Middle East, and North America.
He also has 10 years on the client side, including a two-year spell between 2008 and 2010 as head of global communications at Novartis Vaccines.
Prior to Novartis, Newman worked at Weber Shandwick client Gillette both before and after its $57 billion acquisition by Procter & Gamble. He started in Geneva in 2004 as director of communications for EMEA overseeing Gillette, Braun, Duracell, and Oral B before moving to Boston in the US to take on the role of VP, global external relations for Gillette. During that time he did not work with MSLGroup, which numbers P&G among its largest clients.
“[Newman] has worked on both the agency and client sides, most recently at eBay, a great US brand that was born online,” said Olivier Fleurot, CEO of MSLGroup. “It is great to have someone on board who understands organizations that live and breathe online.”
“He has also worked in many parts of the world and will be able to easily interact with MSL operations in other regions,” added Fleurot, who noted that MSL's business is split about 30% in the US, 30% in Europe, 30% in Asia, and 10% elsewhere.
“We have grown faster in Asia than other markets up to now, but the US is still by far the largest market in the world and we will grow more here, where the digital and social aspect of the business is even more important,” said Fleurot. “We are the number four PR network globally, but I'm not so sure about the US.”
Fleurot said MSLGroup achieved low single-digit global organic revenue growth in 2013, but that it was “flat” in the US. “The pipeline is reasonably good at the moment,” he added.
He also reiterated that Wilson's decision to step down from the North America president role was entirely her own.
“She has done a lot to improve the reputation of MSLGroup in the US; there's a lot more we can do in terms of awareness and thought leadership, but we've made good progress,” he said. “[Wilson] wanted a different work-life balance, but we found a good role to keep her where she will do something she's really good at: client engagement.”