Jonathan Lewis, founder of Outdoor Plus, has left Global as executive director of its outdoor operation in a surprise move.
Campaign understands that his last day at Global was Monday (24 February).
Global declined to comment, but a source with knowledge of the situation dismissed suggestions that Outdoor Plus may have underperformed since the radio giant bought Lewis’ company in autumn 2018.
The out-of-home industry rumour mill has been buzzing in recent days about the future of Lewis amid speculation of a possible wider shake-up at Global, but he is thought to be the only significant departure.
Global bought Exterion Media, Primesight and Outdoor Plus in a stunning triple deal in the space of three weeks to create the UK’s second-biggest OOH owner with close to 30% market share.
Led by group chief executive Stephen Miron, Global is thought to have paid as much as £750m for the three assets – the biggest of which, Exterion, held the valuable contract for Transport for London’s Underground OOH estate.
However, insiders have admitted that Global, which owns the Capital, Classic, LBC and Heart stations, has found the integration of the three OOH companies and joining up the IT systems to be tougher than expected.
The three companies were rebranded last year as Global.
The former Primesight business suffered a blow in December 2019 when InLink, a joint venture with Intersection to install BT-branded Wi-Fi kiosks on high streets, collapsed into administration.
BT took control of InLink and Global continues to sell the ad space.
Lewis’ exit does not affect the role of Leon Taviansky, chief executive of Global’s outdoor arm, who continues to report to Miron.
Tavianksy, who was previously chief executive of Exterion, got the top job at Global’s OOH operation in April 2019, at the same time as Lewis got the executive director’s role.
It was widely thought that Lewis had a long-term, permanent role – unlike Naren Patel, chief executive of Primesight, who stepped down and became an advisor for a 12-month period until spring 2020.
A source with knowledge of the situation maintains now that Lewis had not been expected to stay for the long term.
Lewis is a low-profile figure but has a reputation as one of the best-connected players in the OOH sector.
When Outdoor Plus was independent, Lewis recruited some starry investors, including Nick Mason, a member of Pink Floyd, and Lewis went on to sell a stake to private-equity group Inflexion in 2016, before selling the business to Global in 2018.
The purchase price of Outdoor Plus was not disclosed, but it had an annual turnover of £30m, according to accounts for its parent company, Project Iconic Holdings.
Campaign estimated at the time that Lewis’ company could have been valued at between £70m and £80m, but some observers suggested that it sold for £100m or more.
Lewis did not comment on his departure from Global.
The Tabor family founded Global in 2007 and turned it into Britain’s biggest commercial radio operator through a series of acquisitions.
The group’s OOH deals mean it is now the UK’s sixth-largest media owner by ad sales, behind Google, Facebook, ITV, Sky and Channel 4.