Burson names external successor for top role

NEW YORK: Christopher Komisarjevsky will step down as CEO and president of Burson-Marsteller, effective at the end of the year.

NEW YORK: Christopher Komisarjevsky will step down as CEO and president of Burson-Marsteller, effective at the end of the year.

Thomas Nides, formerly global chief administrative officer of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB), will assume the role on November 8, and the two will work in tandem during the transition.

Komisarjevsky, who joined the agency in 1994 as president and CEO of its US operations, has spent the last six years in the top post.

At CSFB, Nides led 2,000 employees worldwide and oversaw the firm's corporate communications, government relations, advertising, marketing, human resources, philanthropy, and extraneous administrative functions. He joined CSFB in August 2001 and has served as an SVP at Fannie Mae and a principal with Morgan Stanley.

While Nides oversaw a lot of different departments, he said, "75% of my time was spent worrying about communications issues."

"We went through an unbelievable crisis, IPO allocation stuff, business challenges, and legal issues," Nides added.

Jeanmarie McFadden, co-head of global communications for CSFB, confirmed that the bank's corporate communications function reported to Nides, until he left in late July. Corporate comms now reports to Richard Thornburgh, executive vice chairman and vice chairman of the executive board.

Ann Fudge, chairman and CEO of Burson's parent, Young & Rubicam Brands, said Nides follows founder Harold Burson's tradition.

"How did Harold Burson start the business?" she asked. "It was based on being the trusted advisor to the CEO. [Nides'] experience put him in a league where he knows a lot of client partners and CEO."

While some might see hiring an outside successor without agency experience as an iconoclastic approach, Fudge said her philosophy is serving "what's best for our client partners."

Nides said his decision was influenced by Burson's "most unbelievable brand presence."

"A lot of interesting opportunities come across my desk," Nides said. "What attracted me to Burson was its stellar reputation in a difficult market with what it's been through."

While Fudge could not comment on Burson's financial results because of Sarbanes-Oxley, she said that Komisarjevsky was successful in navigating Burson through the tough economic period that pervaded the PR industry.

"We hear positive comments from our client partners that are reflective of our financial performance," Fudge said.

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