‘Definitely the end of an era’: Former Teneo boss to replace Tony Langham as Lansons CEO

Tony Langham will step down as chief executive of Lansons at the end of 2021 – after nearly three decades at the agency’s helm – to be replaced by former Teneo UK boss Gordon Tempest-Hay, who will become a “significant” shareholder.

(L-R) Tony Langham, Clare Parsons and Gordon Tempest-Hay
(L-R) Tony Langham, Clare Parsons and Gordon Tempest-Hay

Tony Langham, who co-founded Lansons in 1989 with his business and life partner Clare Parsons, will become executive chairman of the agency and will focus on client work including Amigo Loans and the Government of the Isle of Man.

Parsons, meanwhile, will move from her role as non-executive chair to non-executive director.

Lansons’ executive committee, which runs the agency on behalf of its 28 partners, will consist of Tempest-Hay, Langham and Parsons, along with joint managing directors Laura Hastings, Rebecca Mayo and Stuart Graham.

The leadership changes will take effect from 1 January, when Tempest-Hay joins the agency, after serving out the period of the non-compete clauses in his contract with Teneo.

Succession

Langham told PRWeek that the agency – which was awarded Best Agency of the Year in the mid-size category of the PRWeek Best Places to Work Awards earlier this year – fared well during the pandemic, with strong fee and profit growth, along with client retention and wins.

He said: “We did well, as a business, during COVID-19, with some amazing wins. It became clear to Clare and me that it was the right time to put in place our succession… at a time when the business is strong, so that is the decision we took.”

Langham added: “I’m going to be pleased not to be chief executive anymore after having that role for the majority of the 32 years Lansons has been running. The business needs a change and I need a change. I will get to focus on client work, which I love.”

Parsons said: “Lansons is in my soul and I’m going to continue championing our commitment to diversity, gender equality and to doing the right thing in the way we go about our business every day.”

Leadership and ownership

Tempest-Hay will become a shareholder in Lansons next April, at the start of the agency’s financial year.

Langham would not be drawn on the exact proportion of the incoming chief executive’s stake and said the details were yet to be finalised.

He said: “We are a partnership agency and [Tempest-Hay] will be a partner with a share in the business. We would expect his share to start at one level and then grow in the years afterwards.”

But Langham told PRWeek that he and Parsons, who own a majority stake in Lansons, would begin reducing their share to less than half of the business from Q1 next year.

He said: “We will become minority shareholders, although still possibly the largest single shareholders. Gordon will own a share and other people at Lansons will own more over time.”

Independent leader

Tempest-Hay led Blue Rubicon as chief executive, ahead of its acquisition by Teneo in 2015, and later the parent agency in the UK. He stepped down at the end of 2019 and was described in a staff email as "without question…one of the stand-out bosses of this generation". He was also previously assistant managing director of Fishburn Hedges.

Langham characterised the search for a successor chief executive coinciding with Tempest-Hay’s non-compete agreement coming to an end as “serendipitous”, and said the agency leader was his and Parsons’ first choice.

“It is important to have a chief executive who is strong in their own right and who won’t need to lean on me,” he said. “Gordon has built bigger businesses than [Lansons] in the past with Blue Rubicon.”

More than this, Langham said he was looking for a successor from an independent agency background.

He added: “Gordon believes in independent agencies, which is a completely different world to running a network agency. We would not have chosen someone from that background. Someone who has worked for an independent knows how much you have to fight to win business.”

‘End of an era’

Langham said of the succession: “It’s definitely the end of an era. He’s a different person and he will be a different leader to me, so it’s the start of a new era, too.”

Commenting on his impending arrival, Tempest-Hay said he was looking forward to the challenge.

He said: “You know in your gut when you’ve found the right place and have an opportunity to build something truly special. Lansons is that place. I’ve spent two years biding my time as I served my non-competes from leaving Teneo; now it’s for me to get back to the fray and make up for lost time.”

Tempting talent

Langham predicted that Tempest-Hay’s tenure would herald the arrival of some of his former colleagues.

He said: “It would not be a surprise if some of the people who have worked with Gordon in the past come over to Lansons – in fact, I’m expecting it.”

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