CEO Eric Salama ousted from Kantar after 18 years at the helm

21 February 2020 3 min. read
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Global research and data consultancy Kantar has announced the immediate resignation of CEO Eric Salama – who will be on ‘garden leave’ until the end of June.   

Long-term Kantar CEO Eric Salama has resigned his position with immediate effect. In a move first flagged in December, Salama was due to step down during the course of this year, but has been ousted prior to the firm naming a successor. According to a brief press release, Salama will be on ‘garden leave’ until the end of June, when he was expected to join Kantar’s board as a non-executive director – although such a move now appears doubtful.

“I am delighted that, after helping with the transition to a new CEO, I will continue to be involved in the business I love,” Salama had said at the time of the December announcement. Yet, the Financial Times has now cited a source ‘close to the situation’ as saying that Salama is highly unlikely to take up the board offer, while a Kantar representative who spoke to Campaign stated that Salama “will confirm his intentions by the end of June.”

Should he decline, it would be an abrupt end to a career spanning more than three decades at Kantar and former majority holder WPP, with Salama’s contribution to the two companies internally described as ‘immense’. In a press release announcing the his sudden resignation, Kantar stated; “With delivery of 2020 growth plans now firmly underway, the Kantar Board of Directors decided that this was the right time for Mr Salama to step down.”

Eric Salama - Kantar

“It’s been a genuine privilege and pleasure leading this amazing organisation over the past 18 years and building the kind of relationships with so many wonderful talented people around the world,” Salama has since said in a social media response. Referring to the scores of clients and past colleagues who had reached out, Salama added that he was humbled seeing the difference he had made in lots of ways, big and small. “Who can ask for more than that?”

Salama’s abrupt departure is the latest development in a long period of disruption at Kantar and WPP as the latter is being forced to fight off encroachment from the consulting sector, with Bain Capital ultimately picking up a controlling stake in Kantar last year. In 2018, four Kantar entities were merged to form Kantar Consulting, while in preparation for the firm’s sale – approved by the board shortly after – Kantar then brought all of its brands under the one banner.

According to the Financial Times’ report, Salama’s premature axing came about following a dispute with Bain Capital over unspecified business decisions – with one source describing the move as a power play, telling the business publication, “Bain take a different view on how to manage the business. Fundamentally, they want to run it.” Kantar’s executive committee will now oversee the business until the appointment of a new CEO.

Previously, Luca Bassi, a Managing Director at Bain Capital and former Bain & Company consultant, said; “I want to thank Eric for his leadership of the business throughout the sale process and his commitment to the company. He has been the true architect of Kantar’s success over the years and has put in place a strategy that will continue that success. We fully respect his decision to step down at this stage in the development of the company.”

Kantar now continues its hunt for a new CEO alongside Indian ICT services and consulting firm Wipro