Kathleen Saxton has, in a surprise move, shut her executive search firm, The Lighthouse Company, and joined strategic advisory firm MediaLink as executive vice-president and managing director to lead its European operations.
Saxton has been one of the most visible leaders in the UK advertising and media scene as the chief executive of The Lighthouse Company, which she founded in 2009, and the advisory chair of Advertising Week Europe, which she co-founded in 2013.
In her new role, which she started on 1 September, Saxton reports to Michael Kassan, founder, chairman and chief executive of MediaLink. She will also work with British parent company, Ascential, which owns Cannes Lions.
Her remit will be wide-ranging, spanning business growth, agency selection, talent advisory and strategic consulting for clients. She is also expected to bring her skills to bear as a qualified psychotherapist.
MediaLink is a leading player in the US but it has yet to make a major impact in the UK since being acquired by Ascential in 2017.
“The last 10 years leading Lighthouse have been a wonderful adventure, but I’ve been ready for some time for a greater intellectual stretch, one that would encompass my previous agency and media owner experiences too,” Saxton said. She added that her thinking pre-dated the Covid-19 crisis, which has hit the ad industry hard.
“Because it’s genuinely my heart, my want and my need to work deeper in the advisory space, there is only pride as we now decommission Lighthouse – I hope during her time she served the industry well,” she said.
Companies House filings show Saxton wound up The Lighthouse Ventures in July, after paying staff who were made redundant. It is understood that she retains the company’s IP and brand.
Campaign previously reported in 2017 that MediaLink had looked at buying The Lighthouse Company but ultimately Kassan has decided to recruit Saxton, rather than acquire her company.
“Kathleen joining MediaLink is more like an acquihire, in as much as her unique talent is what we were after,” he explained.
“Kathleen has earned incredible trust from dozens of decision-makers who have relied on her to help them navigate change and build teams designed to master the dynamics of our ever-changing challenges and opportunities.
“It has taken me several years to entice Kathleen to join me and the leadership team at MediaLink and I’m delighted the timing was finally right for us both.”
He added: “It’s not a secret that we’ve been trying to further develop our presence in London. We have had some fits and starts… it’s not for want of trying. The UK can be a tough market if you don’t have a base.
“I’m confident – as I have been for more than five years – that the combination of Kathleen having her own relationships and strong presence, coupled with our parent company Ascential’s team resource, will ensure a more competitive presence in the marketplace.”
Saxton was previously a founding partner of Grace Blue Worldwide, business development director at PHD UK, and board marketing director of Saatchi & Saatchi.
“MediaLink is a powerhouse around the world, and the breadth of advisory functions they have developed is mightily impressive,” she said.
“I am thrilled to join Michael to further build and lead the European region for an organisation as influential as MediaLink – and there's never been a more important time to be doing so.
“Clients around the world are looking for a more dynamic strategic advisory to move them through the challenges we all face right now.”
Saxton was known for bringing the UK commercial media industry together for the annual launch of The Lighthouse Company's The Shipping Report, which examined key trends such as digital disruption and mental health facing senior talent, and it became a regular fixture in the advertising calendar.
The Lighthouse Company also partnered Campaign on several initiatives, including The A List and Media Leader of the Year at the Media Week Awards.