When Publicis Groupe suspended Executive Chairman Kevin Roberts last Saturday over gender and diversity remarks he made the day before, the company said its Supervisory Board would determine whatever further action was required concerning the matter.
It didn’t take long — Roberts will be departing the company effective September 1.
The company announced the decision in a short statement released early Wednesday morning:
“Publicis Groupe announced today the resignation of Kevin Roberts Head Coach de Publicis Groupe, Executive Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi/Fallon, Member of the Management Board. The Supervisory Board and the Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe took note of Kevin Robert’s decision to step down with effect from September 1st 2016, prior to his retirement date due in May 2017.”
The controversy began Friday when Business Insider quoted Roberts on the topic of diversity as saying that the “fucking debate is all over,” and that many women simply don’t want to be promoted to the top management ranks in Adland.
The comments were met with ferocious blow-back from the industry, with some suggesting Roberts was out of touch with workforce realities in Adland. Indeed, many executives have acknowledged the industry's long and ongoing challenges in the diversity arena.
Roberts issued a statement earlier today to The New York Timesand several other news outlets in which he apologized for the “upset and offense” his remarks caused. Here’s the full statement:
“'Fail Fast, Fix Fast, Learn Fast'” is a leadership maxim I advocate.
When discussing with Business Insider evolving career priorities and new ways of work/life integration, I failed exceptionally fast.
My miscommunication on a number of points has caused upset and offense, and for this I am sorry.
I have inadvertently embarrassed Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Groupe, two companies I love and have been devoted to for almost 20 years.
I have expressed my regret and apology to the companies for the furor my remarks and language stimulated, and I extend this to colleagues, staff and clients.
So that we can all move forward, I am bringing forward my May 1, 2017, retirement from the company, and will leave the Groupe on September 1, 2016.
There is a lot of learning to reflect on, and within the thousands of tweets, comments and articles there are many powerful and passionate contributions on the changing nature of the workplace, the work we do, what success really looks like, and what companies must do to provide women and men the optimal frameworks in which to flourish.
I believe that new thinking, frameworks and measures are needed to make more rapid progress on diversity in all its forms, in all professions and occupations. Hopefully, the focus on this serious and complex issue will gather momentum."
This story has been updated with a statement from Roberts.