Ketchum's ethnic unit loses another exec to a start-up

DALLAS: Former Ketchum VP Jose Villasenor's return to entrepreneurship marks the second high-level departure from the agency's Vanguard Cultural Marketing Specialty practice since its founding last fall.

DALLAS: Former Ketchum VP Jose Villasenor's return to entrepreneurship marks the second high-level departure from the agency's Vanguard Cultural Marketing Specialty practice since its founding last fall.

Villasenor, formerly national leader of the firm's Hispanic Markets Group, left Ketchum last month and has founded The Norte Group, a Hispanic marketing and PR firm focusing on upper-middle-income households.

The agency's first two clients are VALOR Telecom in Irving, TX, and DonRuss Playoff, a trading-card company headquartered in Arlington, TX. Villasenor says he will work with a network of more than a dozen freelancers nationwide.

Before joining Ketchum in 1999, Villasenor worked as a lobbyist, and ran his own PR agency in El Paso, TX.

Ketchum hired SVP Esther Novak to lead its multicultural unit about a year ago. Villasenor was put in charge of Hispanic efforts from Dallas, and the practice took in VP Betsy Helgager's African-American Markets Group in Atlanta. Early this year, Helgager also struck out on her own to form BLH Consulting.

Despite the loss of high-level talent, Novak said Vanguard is growing with PR pros on the ground in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and across Texas. Helgager and Villasenor haven't been directly replaced, and senior management duties have become more centralized in New York.

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