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Nigel Marsh to depart Y&R Brands and be replaced by Russel Howcroft

Y&R Brands boss Nigel Marsh is to step down from one of the advertising industry’s toughest jobs, Mumbrella has learned. He will be replaced by GPY&R CEO Russel Howcroft.

Marsh, who brought stability to the group after a turbulent time, will depart in the next few weeks, Mumbrella understands.

Although he could not be reached this afternoon, Marsh has previously used career breaks to publish books and develop a career as a public speaker.  

His departure comes weeks after he gave a stirring speech at TEDx Sydney urging a greater work-life balance.

Marsh took on the tough Y&R brands brief in mid 2008. Before that he had been at the helm of Leo Burnett and was one of the team who created Earth Hour for WWF.

At the time of Marsh’s appontment to Y&R Brands the job was described as “a hospital pass”. Agencies in the group include GPY&R, Campaign Palace and Wunderman.

At the time GPY&R was at an all time low, with a messy court case – since settled – still raging over the purchase of George Patterson. Early in his tenure, Telstra fired GPY&R, which led to several redundancies.

Russel Howcroft Gruen MumbrellaSince then, GPY&R has been restructured with Howcroft – who also appears on ABC’s The Gruen Transfer – rising up from running the Melbourne business to a national role.

There have also been several key hirings by Marsh, including Jon Steel, one of the world’s most respected strategic planners.

New business wins have included Nokia, Microsoft, Medibank, Perpetual, V8, Virgin and Generation One.

Creatively, while GPY&R is still not back to the powerhouse it once was, it has won Gold at the Cannes Lions for the last three years running.

Mumbrella understands that key clients were given the news of Marsh’s departure earlier today.

Marsh’s departure and Howcroft’s succession appears to have been a planned process which also saw Mark Mackay returning last month to run the Campaign Palace.

Update: B&T reports Y&R global CEO Hamish McLennan as saying:

“Nigel’s brief was to attract new leadership for the group companies, to manage and coach, and to provide new energy and confidence for the various agencies under his leadership. He has succeeded on all these counts. We are sorry to see Nigel go. We will miss his clarity, enthusiasm, strategic skills and his unfailing honesty.”

“It will be a seamless transition. Russel and his team have done a great job in rebuilding George Patterson Y&R and he is the logical choice to take over the Y&R Brands role.”

And Marsh told B&T:

“It’s been an intense and rewarding time. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved. Future prospects are genuinely exciting and in Russel we have the perfect successor to realise that potential.

“I am going to take a break and write my third book before considering my next corporate role but will be on hand to assist if required.”

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