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Alexandre Gama central to deal, as BBH sells 51% stake to Publicis Groupe

The other shoe has dropped. Not only has Publicis Groupe bought up Neogama BBH (see my post of yesterday), it has also taken the opportunity to acquire the 51% stake in BBH it did not already own. As will be seen, the two acquisitions are intimately related.

By any standards, this is a historic moment for all concerned. The old guard at one of Britain’s most illustrious agencies is moving aside after 30 years to make way for new management.

Down step the two surviving partners, group chairman Nigel Bogle (pictured) and worldwide chief creative officer Sir John Hegarty – both legends in their own lifetimes. Up step Simon Sherwood to Bogle’s position (he is currently group CEO), Gwyn Jones to Sherwood’s role and Neil Munn, CEO of BBH’s branding specialist Zig Zag, to an additional group chief operating role.

But here’s the clever bit. Neogama founding partner and chief shareholder Alexandre Gama is taking on Hegarty’s mantle as worldwide chief creative officer.

This too is highly symbolic. In seeking a successor to Hegarty, BBH and its paymaster PG have cast their net wide and picked someone quintessentially representative of the new wave of creativity coming out of emerging markets. The centre of gravity – they are saying in so many words – has changed, from Britain to Brazil, and countries like it.

The change from first generation agency to second generation management is always accompanied by high risk, no matter how successful that agency. Remember Collett Dickenson Pearce anyone?

But this deal has been carefully crafted to hedge, as best anyone can, against such a risk. The rounded symbolism of 30 years clearly suggests Bogle and Hegarty have long mulled their departure at this point. No one can accuse them of failing to bring on the next generation of management.

The Gama move is, however, a genuine surprise and must have been opportunistically fashioned out of Gama’s decision to sell his stake last year. Clever old Gama for parlaying his position so well. But a hat tip to Publicis group chief Maurice Lévy as well for crafting such an imaginative solution.

Now all they need to do is sort out the Unilever problem.

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