M&C Saatchi CEO Moray MacLennan is stepping down 28 years after he joined the then breakaway from Saatchi & Saatchi led by the Saatchi brothers.
Executive chair Zillah Byng-Thorne, a former CEO of Future, will take over while M&C hunts for a replacement.
MacLennan says: “As I approach 40 years of Saatchi in many ways it feels like precisely the wrong time to move on, but I have decided it is precisely the right time.
“M&C Saatchi has delivered an impressive turnaround, come through its existential moment (two failed takeover bids and an accounting scandal), and is well set for the future – now is the right time to make way for new energy and new ideas. It has been a privilege to work for so many years doing something I enjoy, with people I like, at this extraordinary company. Thanks to all clients and colleagues, past and present.”
MacLennan can hardly be blamed for wanting a quieter life: the past two years or so have been a nightmare as, first, the accounting scandal (revenue was booked too early) led to the departure of founder members David Kershaw, Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair (Lord Saatchi quit before this, brother Charles years ago) leaving MacLennan, who had joined the original breakaway, in sole charge. MacLennan then had to fend off two takeover bids, one hostile from Vin Murria’s AdvancedAdvT.
Murria/AdvancedAdvT, a tech company, still hold a substantial shareholding in the agency, currently valued at £180m. The other bid was from House 337 owner Next 15 but that foundered when Next’s share price fell. M&C is now firmly in play but any further bids hinge on how predators see its prospects in a flagging ad market and how they view its rather rambling international network.
As for MacLennan, 62, he’s been one of adland’s troupers. Life with the Saatchis and their subsequent creation was never likely to be dull although all of them probably didn’t expect things to turn out quite this way.