Dentsu Aegis CEO Jerry Buhlmann will step down at the end of the year, after eight years on the job.
He will be succeeded by Dentsu Aegis chairman Tim Andree, a former professional basketball player, who has been with the company since 2006 and will combine the chairman and CEO roles.
Buhlmann – who will take time off before moving on to his next role – began at Aegis Group in 1999 and became CEO in 2010. In 2013, he led Aegis through its acquisition by Japan-based Dentsu and became CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network.
“After nine years as CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network and before that Aegis Group PLC, I am very proud of what the organization has achieved in that time,” Buhlmann said in a statement. “…The business has strong momentum and I’m confident it will continue to thrive and grow strongly at a time of disruptive change in the market.”
“Programmatic is the way of working in the future, and we’ll continue to invest in people who have the skills and technology to support that,” Buhlmann told AdExchanger in a 2016 interview, adding that buying Merkle was a “strategic step” towards “bringing audience marketing and people-based marketing together.”
Dentsu has performed well under Buhlmann’s tenure. The company, which has largely avoided the business slowdown hampering its competitors, reported organic growth of 4.4% in Q3 to roughly $6.4 billion. The company is organized under one P&L, which makes it easier to bring together talent based on client needs.
“He’s been an incredible driving force for the network, balancing the need to keep bringing in top talent with the skill of keeping close to top clients and prospects,” said Greg Paull, principal analyst at R3.
Buhlmann is the third holding company CEO to depart this year. He follows Martin Sorrell, who was pushed out of WPP in April, and MDC Partners CEO Scott Kauffman, who announced he would step down in September.
Holding companies have been performing poorly as a sector over the past year due to increased pressure on clients and competition from major digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Andree joined Dentsu in 2006 to head up its US expansion efforts. As one of the company’s first foreign executives, he led Dentsu’s 2008 purchase of flagship creative agency McGarryBowen.
“I have worked hand in hand with Jerry and the management team over the years and for this reason, the Dentsu Aegis Network management will move to the next stage with strong continuity and stability,” Andree said in a statement.
Dentsu will be in safe hands with Andree, Paull added, but “will need a team beneath him with the media chops to consult to him,” as his background beyond Dentsu is mostly on the brand side. He previously held marketing roles at Toyota, Canon and the NBA.