LONDON — Kevin Roberts, who resigned his role as executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi following controversial comments he made about gender, has been named chairman of UK PR group Beattie.

Roberts is tasked with helping Beattie grow its international presence; the group, which includes the Beattie and Only firms, currently operates eight offices in the UK. The firm also noted that seven of its 10-person leadership team are women.

"We are delighted to have recruited one of the world’s most inspirational business minds to help us expand in the UK, North America and Australasia," said Beattie group CEO Laura Roberts. "Beattie’s 2017 strategy is clear – recruit great people and open offices in line with client needs. We’re in for some exciting times as we build the Beattie and Only brands internationally."

Roberts ended his 20-year Saatchi career in August, following comments he made in an interview with Business Insider about gender. In the interview, he said that the debate about diversity in the advertising industry was "over" and that he spent "no time" thinking about the issue because Publicis Groupe has a 50-50 gender split amongst all its staff. 

Roberts added that women lack "vertical ambition" for leadership roles and instead demonstrate "intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy."

Roberts' controversial comments immediately triggered considerable criticism from senior advertising industry figures, including Cindy Gallop. Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy termed the comments "unnacceptable", and Roberts was placed on a leave of absence.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Roberts apologised for "miscommunication", and has since noted that his comments were misunderstood and taken out of context.

Roberts' advertising career began in 1969 at Mary Quant, before he joined Procter & Gamble in 1975. Stints at Pepsico and Lion Nathan followed, before Roberts joined Saatchi as global CEO in 1997, becoming executive chairman in 2015.