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Long-serving Kantar chief executive Eric Salama has declared his intent to step down from the role throughout 2020, sparking an immediate hunt for a replacement.

Salama will remain in place until a successor is found as part of a transition process, after which he will join the Kantar board as a non-executive director on a part-time basis to continue to advise clients and mentor key employees.

Salama’s departure follows WPP’s consolidation of all Kantar services and the selling of its majority stake in the business to Bain Capital, which was completed earlier this month. 

Salama said: “It has been an intense and rewarding 18 months preparing Kantar for sale and successfully closing a deal with our new partner Bain Capital. I am confident that Kantar has never been better positioned for growth than it is now. 

“After 17 years as chief executive now is the right time for me to pause, reflect on my personal priorities and explore other experiences. I am delighted that, after helping with the transition to a new chief executive, I will continue to be involved in the business I love.”

Mark Read, WPP boss, added: “Eric’s contribution to WPP and to Kantar has been immense since the company he was part of was acquired by WPP in 1988.

"Over the past 17 years, he has built Kantar from its infancy into the world’s leading data, insights and consulting company and then worked tirelessly to transition the company to the next phase of its development.”

Salama has described the decision to step down from Kantar was a "personal one" following his recovery from a stabbing outside a London café in January.

The exec was attached with an eight-inch knife that punctured his lung during an attempted robbery in the capital at the start of the year — an ordeal he told the Financial Times “really makes you reflect on what you want to do over the next few years”.