Ex-WPP boss embraces Aegis’ media diversity

Mainardo de Nardis, Aegis Media’s incoming chief executive, speaks frankly of his enthusiasm about running a public limited company despite frantic speculation surrounding a takeover bid for parent group Aegis.

De Nardis, who arrives from WPP Group’s Mediaedge:CIA, where he was global chief executive, is described as “urbane” and “internationalist” by those close to him. Industry insiders see the appointment to a newly created role as Aegis hanging up a “business as usual” notice amid rumours that one of the major global marketing groups – or corporate raider Vincent Bolloré – is set to bid. One media analyst observes: “Aegis is saying that whatever happens, it’s doing what it has to do.”

His appointment is part of a growing trend. Interpublic and WPP recently created top positions to oversee their disparate media businesses. And Publicis Groupe, the Paris-based parent of Starcom and Zenith Optimedia, last week consolidated the two networks under one management structure to be overseen by chairman Jack Klues.

De Nardis has global responsibility for the Carat, Vizeum, Posterscope and Isobar planning and buying networks. He will also take a seat on the group’s board. Until now, Aegis’s agency media heads reported directly to group chief executive Robert Lerwill, although the Synovate market research arm has traditionally had its own chief executive, currently Adrian Chedore. He will continue in the same role.

De Nardis admits: “It is a strange time to take up the challenge because of the speculation, but I look forward to working for the company. I have always been impressed by Aegis’ single-minded focus and entrepreneurial spirit. There is a lot of talent inside.”

The Italian has been credited with playing a large part in the merger between MediaNetwork and CIA. He was made chief executive of Mediaedge:CIA following WPP’s acquisition of its parent company, Tempus, in 2002. “I’ve managed international operations for a long time and understand networks with strong personalities as a result of acquisitions rather than organic growth. I am probably one of the few people to have operated that way. Most of our competitors come from a different background. The best thing for me is Aegis’ ‘plc’ position – it gives a feeling of control over our destiny. It is something I have missed in the past few years,” he says.

Chris Ingram, the founder of CIA and more recently The Ingram Partnership, who was succeeded by de Nardis as chief executive of CIA Worldwide, says: “The creation of this role is long overdue. A few years ago there were tensions within Aegis because the media chiefs felt that resources were going to research, while they were the ones making the money. To have someone who understands media sitting at the top table will help solve that problem.”

Ingram believes de Nardis’s background makes him the ideal candidate for the job: “I worked with him very closely for more than eight years. He is an incredibly effective guy, able to gain and keep the respect of senior executives through a balancing act of wanting to maximise profits, but not beating up ‘craftspeople’. He is genuinely an internationalist – very comfortable in a huge cross-section of cultures.”

Aegis has yet to confirm de Nardis’ starting date, but by a twist of fate, he could find himself working for WPP. The group has been given a deadline of November 25 to make a bid for Aegis.

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