Bohemia’s Brett Dawson takes M&C Saatchi global role as group seeks to expand in face of takeover bid

M&C Saatchi has appointed Brett Dawson, founder of its media agency, Bohemia to a global role aimed at accelerating the growth of its media and commerce capabilities, five years after the business was purchased by the UK group.

Dawson will be relocating to the UK, before returning to Australia in 2023, working “closely” with both Australian CEO Justin Graham, and founder of M&C Saatchi Performance, James Hilton to accelerate the group’s data, technology and creativity driven transformation.

Brett Dawson

The group said this move comes at the completion of Dawson’s earn-out and “an incredible decade founding, building and running Bohemia”, with him now set to take a break before joining the global group at its base in London in September.


Justin Graham said: “By applying Brett’s commercial media expertise to the broader Group, this critical new role will turbocharge the customer-centric transformation of the business, ensuring data, technology and creativity are at the core of everything we do. His passion for the Bohemia brand, people and clients remains as strong as ever, so we’re excited to see this energy extend to the broader Group.”

Dawson, current CEO of Bohemia said: “The founding Bohemian drive and desire to challenge is as strong as it’s ever been. The scope and canvas has increased dramatically as part of the M&C Saatchi Group and I am proud of the team, what we created, achieved, our clients and most of all the boho spirit. I look forward to returning to the revered culture of Bohemia, and bringing the benefit of an evolved global media and commerce pillar to bear as part of this incredibly connected group.”

The expansion plans for M&C Saatchi Group appear to be pushing ahead despite the ongoing takeover bid and proposal by tech entrepreneur, Vin Murria. Three weeks ago, Murria was given until the end of March to put forward a final ‘put up or shut up’ offer, as reported in This Is Money UK. With this deadline fast approaching, an update can be expected within the next week.

Local CEO, Justin Graham

All of the bids to date -including the most recent which valued its shares to a total of around £282 million ($A500m) – were rejected by the group, as it found they undervalued the business. Murria already owns 12.5% of  the business directly and a further 9.8% via her acquisition vehicle AdvancedAdvt.

M&C Saatchi was contacted about the local implications of a takeover might have locally. With Murria’s heavy tech background, sources have suggested a takeover could lead to a tech-heavy direction for the group. The group remains focused on its current capabilities expansion in the face of the bid.

When Dawson returns to Australia next year, the group said that he will partner with Graham and the executive team to “further drive commercial opportunities across the business’s core capabilities, including marketing science practice Precision, while identifying and building new capabilities and models within its ecosystem”.

It also said that the decision of “the established founder to stay on and accept a Group role following completion is unique, and testament to his commitment to the future potential and ambition of the business”.

A global search is currently underway for a new managing director for Bohemia in Australia, with an announcement set to arrive in the coming weeks.

M&C Saatchi purchased Bohemia originally in 2017 after showing initial ambitions to build out media capabilities with its strategy team, then led by Graham. This included the agency going up for the Commonwealth Bank media account in a 2014 pitch, after the agency was already the incumbent creative partner.


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