Publicis drops 100m SFR to shore up France Telecom account

Publicis Groupe is parting company with SFR, France’s second-largest telecoms operator, after 13 years following the departure of three senior executives last week. The account bills £100m.

The move would allow Publicis in Paris to take on the multi-million-pound France Telecom business previously handled by Publicis-owned creative hotshop Marcel.

Frederic Raillard and Farid Mokart, the founders of Marcel, resigned last week, along with chairman of Publicis Conseil Christophe Lambert, to launch a start-up backed by Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré.

It now looks likely that Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Lévy (pictured) will fold Marcel, which won France Telecom’s pan-European consumer advertising business along with Fallon London earlier this year, into Publicis Conseil.

Publicis Groupe was involved in a repitch against four other agencies for the SFR business. A spokeswoman confirms Publicis’ decision to pull out of the pitch and admits the business was a “major budget” for the agency. However, she claims it accounts for less than 1% of total group sales.

Marketing Week reported last week that Orange’s £200m pan-European advertising roster had been thrown into chaos after the three executives announced they were leaving to form Fred/Farid/Lambert.

The defection of Raillard, Mokart and Lambert followed the appointment of former Financial Times chief executive Olivier Fleurot as executive chairman of the network earlier this month. Publicis chief operating officer Rick Bendel is leaving to join supermarket chain Asda as group marketing director.

SFR says the decision by Publicis will have no impact on how it proceeds with the review. SFR is 56% owned by Vivendi, which also owns Universal Music Group and Groupe Canal , a French producer of pay-TV.