Staff Reporters
Feb 3, 2020

Former CEO returns to McCann Australia, as owner

Ben Lilley returns after two years away to take over ownership the network's Australia operations.

Ben Lilley
Ben Lilley

Interpublic's McCann Worldgroup announced that Ben Lilley, former CEO of McCann Australia, is assuming ownership of the agency. That includes Smart, the agency that Lilley founded 20 years ago and which McCann acquired in 2011; McCann’s Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast operations; and its PR business, The Red Republic.

Lilley joined McCann in 2011 when it bought Smart, and stepped down as CEO and chairman in 2018. His LinkedIn profile states that since then he has worked as a "creative entrpreneur...investing in private businesses with a focus on creativity".  

McCann Australia will remain part of McCann Worldgroup as an affiliate under independent ownership. The agency will retain access to the network’s global tools and expertise, as well as remain involved on global client business, McCann said.

Harris Diamond, chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, said Lilley's deep knowledge of the Australian market and experience in McCann positions the new partnership very well to succeed in Australia’s evolving market. "We look forward to the creative energy and vision that he will be bringing back to the agency and its clients,” Diamond added.

Lilley expressed excitement at operating the agency as part of McCann but with independence. "I had a great experience working with McCann and I am keen to have all the advantage of being a part of the McCann network with its global resources, working for McCann global clients, but also having the opportunity of being flexible and fast moving to meet local market demands as an Australian independent.”

Alex Lubar, president of McCann Worldgroup APAC, said the change of ownership will help the operation better tap into local expertise, talent and creativity while still benefitting from McCann Worldgroup’s creative and strategic capabilities. "We are pleased to be welcoming Ben back to the McCann family and know that he’s absolutely the right person to partner with us in taking forward the business for McCann and our clients in Australia,” Lubar said.

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