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M&C Saatchi CEO Jaimes Leggett steps down, with Justin Graham taking over

Jaimes Leggett, the CEO of M&C Saatchi Australasia is stepping down.

The agency group said Leggett’s departure had been on the cards for some time, but the announcement was accelerated due to the unprecedented circumstances resulting from COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Leggett’s equity agreement with the agency ends in July, however under the expedited arrangement, Justin Graham will take over on 1 May.

Staff at the agency were told at 4:30pm today.

Legett joined M&C Saatchi in 2013 from Ogilvy in the UK where he was managing director.

During his time at the helm of M&C Saatchi, the agency acquired independent media outfit Bohemia. On the creative side, it works with clients including Woolworths, Tourism Australia and the Commonwealth Bank.

Leggett said the decision to bring forward the announcement from July to now was the right one.

“I’ve loved being a part of M&C Saatchi. There’s no perfect time to make a move like this, but with the rate of accelerating change in the world right now, it’s important that we get ahead of it and allow the new leadership team to set the platform for the business’ future,” he said.

He also thanked the team around him.

“The past seven years have been nothing short of inspiring. I have worked with some extraordinary people – both within our business and in our client partnerships – and am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved.

“Thanks to the hard work, talent and passion of everyone at M&C Saatchi, we have produced an amazing body of work, hired some great talent and seen consistent year-on-year growth across the group.”

It is not yet clear what Leggett’s next career move will be, however Mumbrella understands he will be on gardening leave for some time.

He will be succeeded as CEO by partner and chief strategy officer Justin Graham, who joined the agency in 2014 and has had stints at Droga5 Sydney, BBDO New York and Leo Burnett.

Graham and Leggett: Looking to the future

Leggett was full of praise for his replacement.

“Justin’s a gun. He’s smart, good around the work and great with people,” Leggett said. “We’ve had a close partnership for the past six years. He’s one of the best strategic thinkers in the market, and I’ve no doubt he will continue to deliver that direction to both ours and our clients’ businesses.”

Graham reciprocated the friendly sentiment.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside Jaimes. I’d like to thank him for his long-time partnership, his guidance, his friendship, and most notably his encouragement to transition me into an increasingly operational role over the last few years. On a personal note, I will miss him in the office, but I am excited about the next big chapter for him.”

He said being tasked with leading M&C Saatchi in Australia and New Zealand is an honour. Its legacy and unique approach to working with iconic brands sets it apart, he said, adding “and what a time of change in the world to be stepping into the role”.

“I believe there is enormous opportunity to create value for our clients, more so now than ever, and that will only be possible by continuing to attract and build talent unlike any other,” he said. “To bring the Saatchi philosophy to the next chapter of how we partner with the business leaders of today and tomorrow is an incredible privilege.”

M&C Saatchi Australia is somewhat isolated from the wider international operation. It is majority owned by the scandal-plagued M&C Saatchi UK, but also has local shareholders and separate clients such as Tourism Australia and the Commonwealth Bank.

Global CEO Moray MacLennan paid tribute to both men for the strength of the Australian operation.

“Thank you to Jaimes for driving the record-breaking growth we have seen in the Australian business. He, more than most, embodies our global position as home to the creative entrepreneur. I wish him the best for his next endeavour. He’s going to be missed,” he said.

“And I’d like to welcome Justin to the CEO position. Justin has an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the business and is the perfect person to continue the agency’s momentum.”

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