Veteran M&C Saatchi chief MacLennan to step down after 28-year stint

The veteran chief executive of M&C Saatchi, the top London advertising agency, is to step down, marking the latest phase of a leadership overhaul at the group.

Sky News has learnt that Moray MacLennan, who has worked for M&C since it was founded in 1995, is to retire from the company in the coming months.

M&C is expected to announce plans to kick off a search for his successor in a statement to the London Stock Exchange on Monday morning.

The announcement will come just weeks after Zillah Byng-Thorne, the former boss of The Week’s publisher, Future, joined M&C as chairman.

Mr MacLennan is one of the most prominent and respected figures in the British advertising industry.

He began his career at Saatchi & Saatchi in 1983, joining the eponymous brothers and two other top executives when they broke away to form the rival group 12 years later.

He led myriad notable ad campaigns, including a general election drive for Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s, and was also an architect of the ill-fated Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum.

More recently, he has attempted to steer M&C through a period of severe challenges, including financial reporting issues and the exit of its remaining founders.

He took over as CEO in 2020.

One ad industry source said Mr MacLennan would be in “high demand” from rivals and other media businesses after he stepped down from the group.

M&C’s businesses extend well beyond traditional advertising, encompassing sports sponsorship broking and activation, digital and social media marketing and talent management.

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Last month, it warned of declining revenues in 2023 amid difficult trading conditions in a slowing economy.

Under Ms Byng-Thorne, M&C is expected to conduct a broad international search for a new chief executive.

As part of a broader shake-up of M&C’s board announced earlier this year, Chris Sweetland, a former WPP Group finance executive, is expected to join as a director representing Vin Murria and AdvancedAdvT, the company’s biggest shareholder.

The latest phase of its boardroom overhaul follows a turbulent period for M&C, which was last year at the centre of a bidding war involving both Ms Murria and Next Fifteen Communications, another London-listed company.

M&C handles campaigns for scores of blue-chip clients, including Heineken and Barclays.

The government is also a big client of the group, which produces work for the NHS and a number of Whitehall departments.

On Friday, shares in M&C closed at 148p, giving it a market capitalisation of around £180m.

Brunswick, the public relations agency which represents M&C Saatchi, did not respond to calls and an emailed enquiry on Sunday evening.

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