MaryLee Sachs assumes US chairman role as H&K changes executive team

NEW YORK: Hill & Knowlton has reshuffled its management team, moving US president and CEO MaryLee Sachs into the US chairman position.

NEW YORK: Hill & Knowlton has reshuffled its management team, moving US president and CEO MaryLee Sachs into the US chairman position.

Sachs, who was appointed CEO in October 2001, will oversee H&K's US practices and will also lead the global marketing communications practice.

H&K's general managers will report to chairman and chief executive Paul Taaffe.

Taaffe noted that he will assume more responsibility running the US operations, leaving Sachs more time to devote to consumer marketing.

Sachs stepped into the CEO role as H&K faced significant economic challenges, taking hits to its core strengths in corporate and public affairs.

The agency selected Sachs, who was previously chairman of the EMEA region, because of her consumer experience, PRWeek reported at the time.

In an internal memo, Taaffe acknowledged that the US economy is "still fickle," and that the decision is "another key step in the turnaround process ... helping our US practices to become more competitive."

"We're in a growth mode; I need MaryLee to focus on the growth," Taaffe said in an interview. "It's a change of focus more than anything else. It's not a very dramatic change."

There are no plans to appoint a new CEO for "at least six months," he added.

Sachs was not immediately available for comment.

Taaffe noted that H&K has had a "slew" of new consumer wins, and that the US is averaging $5 million in new accounts each month.

"The New York office has come back from a bottom that was less than hoped for," said Howard Paster, who was H&Ks chairman and chief executive when Sachs was installed. "[Sachs] gets appropriate credit."

Paster, who is now EVP for PR and public affairs at WPP, noted that the parent company was not involved in the decision.

Tom Hoog, the agency's current chairman, will serve as a senior counselor, and his role within the agency will not change, the memo stated.

Separately, Paul McDade, director of the worldwide and US health and pharmaceutical practice, will be stepping down from his position at the end of the month. A successor has not yet been named.

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