H&K finally goes for Sachs to replace Hoog at US helm

NEW YORK: After interviewing more than 10 external and internal candidates, WPP-owned Hill & Knowlton has selected MaryLee Sachs as its new US president and CEO.

Sachs will replace Tom Hoog, who will give up his responsibilities at the end of the year and become non-executive chairman. Reporting straight to H&K chairman and CEO Howard Paster, she will be assisted by Gene Reineke, who is executive managing director of H&K's central region. He will assume the newly created position of USA chief operating officer, but will work on a part-time basis.

The appointment of Sachs, a London-based expat, may come as a surprise to the industry given that she hasn't lived in the US for 16 years. Overall, she has spent the past 15 years with the company, and was most recently director of the worldwide marketing communications practice, and chairwoman of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region.

Sachs said her initial priority was to get to know how the US operation works. She's also pledged to strengthen the consumer PR area using her marketing communications background.

Paster said her installation would provide a new level of excitement at the company, but he did not underestimate the challenges she will face given the slowed economy. However, Paster said that Sachs would not have to make cuts upon her arrival in January, since revenue forecasts were being revised. The company's top brass is due to meet in mid-October to review budgets.

When asked how Sachs' and Hoog's management styles differed, Paster said, "Tom is a public affairs guy. He has a different set of experience. MaryLee has lived overseas and has lots of consumer experience. She'll put her imprint on things."

Sachs is well known to WPP chief Martin Sorrell, though she says he was not involved in her selection. Sachs said she was encouraged to apply for the position by Paster and Paul Taaffe, H&K president. She started her career at the California agency now called the Gable Group.

H&K is now on the lookout for a candidate to fill Sachs' former position, and is still looking for a head of media.

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