Voluntary Retrenchment Sees Senior Staff Exit South Africa's Magna Carta
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Voluntary Retrenchment Sees Senior Staff Exit South Africa's Magna Carta

South Africa's largest PR agency has seen three key figures depart, after it implemented a voluntary redundancy scheme to cut costs.

Arun Sudhaman

JOHANNESBURG—South Africa's largest PR agency has seen three key figures depart, after it implemented a voluntary redundancy scheme to cut costs.

COO Toni Suddes, strategy chief Samantha Presbury and Deloitte account lead Karena Crerar have all departed Omnicom-owned Magna Carta, along with a senior account director and account director.

Magna Carta CEO Vincent Magwenya told the Holmes Report that the exits follow a review of the agency's "structure, cost base and client budget pressures."

"It became apparent that a number of roles and functions within the business could be streamlined in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency in the running of the business and ensuring that we meet our clients’ needs," said Magwenya.

Magwenya noted that the agency, was not planning any compulsory redundancies "at this time." 

Suddes' and Presbury's departures from the agency are the most high-profile given their seniority and tenure with the agency. Magwenya said their roles had been eliminated, claiming the could be "better and more effectively consolidated into the roles played by the CEO and the various business unit heads".

Founded in 1994 by Michele Anderson and Annemarie McKay-Ichikovitz, Magna Carta has grown to be the country's largest PR firm, winning African Consultancy of the Year honours from the Holmes Report in 2013. Housed within TBWA\South Africa, the firm is also Ketchum's affiliate, and counts Standard Bank (retained in a keenly-contested review last year), Deloitte and Engen as key clients.

Anderson departed the firm in 2011 and is now Ogilvy PR Chicago MD. Magwenya took on the CEO role in 2012.

"The overriding issue is that they failed to adjust costs in line with reduced revenue," said one source familiar with the situation.

Magwenya blamed "sluggish economic conditions", and characterised the firm's performance as "consistently solid and reasonably satisfactory."

"For a consultancy of Magna Carta’s size and pedigree our performance could be a lot better if we focus on operating a flat, lean and nimble structure," he added. "Clients are increasingly looking for more for less, therefore, we have to be appropriately structured to deliver to client expectations under the current economic conditions."

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