Should Holding Company CEOs Also Serve As Chairmen?

Publicis Groupe today formally shifted to a single board of directors governance structure and appointed CEO Arthur Sadoun to the additional role of chairman. 

Publicis said the new setup is the best way to ensure its momentum and growth in the future. 

Previously the company had a two-tiered structure including a supervisory board (led by former CEO Maurice Lévy who is now shifting to the role of Honorary Chairman) and Management Board, led by Sadoun. 



The single board of directors' approach is more common in the U.S. although there is some debate about whether the chairman and CEO roles should be held by a single individual.  

Earlier this month Interpublic shareholders defeated a shareholder proposal to adopt permanent rules requiring the separation of the CEO and chairman roles with an independent chairman if possible.  The argument for separation: a better balance of power between management and shareholders.  

IPG urged shareholders to vote against the proposal arguing that companies need flexibility in their governance structures as circumstances warrant. Somewhat ironically, IPG currently has an independent board chairman—David Thomas—while Philippe Krakowsky is CEO. Krakowsky’s predecessor, Michael Roth, held both titles.    

In past years Omnicom has also faced proposals for permanently separate CEO and Chairman roles and has also succeeded in persuading shareholders to vote against, also arguing for needed flexibility. As at IPG, over the years the roles have been held by a single individual and by two people. John Wren has held both titles since 2018, when he added chairman duties after serving as CEO since 1997. Bruce Crawford held both roles for a decade prior to Wren’s elevation to CEO. He then held the chairman’s post until his retirement when Wren added the role to his remit.  

At WPP the roles have been consistently separated. Mark Read succeeded Martin Sorrell as CEO in 2018. Roberto Quarta has been chairman since 2015. He often clashed with Sorrell and is said to have played a key role in Sorrell’s stepping down.  

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