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Maxus merger ‘on hold’ in Middle East, says MEC COO

MEC and Maxus may remain separate brands in the MENA region, says Alistair Aird, global chief operating officer of MEC.

Despite the June 1 announcement that WPP’s two Group M media shops were to combine, Aird says that “our plans are on hold in the Middle East,” where WPP has majority ownership of MEC but only a minority stake in Maxus. More than 50 per cent of Maxus is owned by the local BPG Group.

Group M CEO Mark Patterson has already said that Maxus will remain in India, where it has a strong reputation and large clients including Tata Motors.

Speaking to Campaign in Cannes, Aird said: “We announced that what we are doing is a corporate restructuring inside Group M and we are bringing together MEC and Maxus so that we have three big, strong global media brands. We are also rolling out and developing Essence, which is a digital agency Group M acquired in 2015.” However, he said that Essence will only launch in a dew markets, and is unlikely to open in the Middle East “in the foreseeable future”.

He added: “We are obviously looking at what we are doing over the next six months before we go live with [the merger] globally on January 1. At the moment the honest answer is that our plans are on hold in the Middle East. We’ve got a strong MEC and a strong Maxus, and the intent at the moment is to keep those businesses separate. They may not merge at all.”

Group M was formed 12 years ago to bring together WPP media agencies MEC, Mindshare, Mediacom and Maxus. It was only introduced to the Middle East three years ago, and Aird says, “We are still building what Group M is at the moment.”

Aird also praised the incoming CEO of MEC MENA, Neil Hardwick. “We’ve got some really talented managers in our organisation,” said Aird. “So a key part of [Hardwick’s] role and remit is really to bring out the best in those managers. He’s a very collaborative guy; he’s seen and done it all before, and for me it’s all about making the team around him successful and getting the best out of those people around him, rather than being a very single-minded, focused leader.”