AUCKLAND, NZ — David Brain, one of the more high-profile architects of Edelman's expansion over the past decade into the world's biggest PR firm, is departing the agency, the Holmes Report can reveal.

Brain, who has served as CEO of the firm's operations across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (APACMEA) since 2012, steps down in May. He joined Edelman in 2004 to oversee Europe, relocating to New Zealand seven years later to lead Asia-Pacific, before adding the Middle East and Africa to his remit.

He told the Holmes Report that his departure from Edelman is for "personal reasons", rather than any intention to join another agency. In particular, Brain said that he needed a change after 13 years during which he has "essentially been doing the same job."

"Brilliant, challenging jobs, but fundamentally and structurally similar," said Brain. "Given I live in New Zealand, it’s difficult to do anything more global. That’s not for any lack of trying by Richard Edelman or [global COO] Matt Harrington — I was put on the main board 18 months ago, and I've been working on various global projects. One of the things that became pretty clear to me in doing that was, because I live in New Zealand, it’s difficult to follow through on those things."

Brain added that his age (54) gives him enough "time to do something else." While he did not rule out a return to the agency world, he plans to pursue "two or three ideas which are non-agency related."

"I leave with huge reluctance," said Brain. "I’m on the main board of the biggest thing that’s ever been. I really don’t want to go and do something less. I’d like to travel a bit less, that’s for sure."

With Brain leaving, Edelman has elevated North Asia CEO Bob Grove to COO of APACMEA, while also collapsing the sub-regional leadership structure that included Iain Twine (Southeast Asia CEO) and Rob Holdheim (South Asia/MEA CEO).

Twine will now lead the reputation practice across APACMEA, while Holdheim will partner with global vice-chair Michael Stewart on the firm's advisory offering. Harrington added that the firm may seek a chairman role in APACMEA to complement Grove, but the time for sub-regions had passed.

"The sub-regions worked for their time but now we have greater integration and movement across the entire region," said Harrington. Local market leaders will now report directly to Grove.

"We believe it was the right structure for when we were trying to get to scale in the region — it really worked to do that," added Brain. "As we migrated to a more sophisticated offer that’s required more multi-specialist skills, you need people to have unfettered access to the markets. [The sub-regional structure] was just redundant."

Under Brain's leadership, Europe doubled in size, before he moved to Asia and — effectively — repeated the trick. He also played a pivotal role in leading the early stages of Edelman's restructuring of agency roles. "That work, which David Brain started, continues with everybody, everyday," said Harrington. "The sub-regional approach is not fit for purpose with the collaboration that is required."

Edelman last week reported its slowest global growth in seven years, declining to break out regional revenues. The firm has also been hit by significant layoffs in the Middle East.

Prior to joining Edelman in 2004, Brain served as CEO of Weber Shandwick and BSMG in UK, and also worked as a planner at Batey Singapore.