Ketchum restructures senior leadership group

The Omnicom Group firm is replacing its executive committee with a new global leadership council.

Rob Flaherty, senior partner, CEO, and president, Ketchum
Rob Flaherty, senior partner, CEO, and president, Ketchum

NEW YORK: Ketchum has restructured its senior leadership team, replacing its executive committee with a 20-member global leadership council made up of top executives from around the world.

The council will report to president and CEO Rob Flaherty and collaborate with the firm’s 90-member partner group. The Omnicom Group agency is eliminating the senior partner designation, listing all members of the newly formed group as partners.

Flaherty explained that the executive committee was due for a shakeup after being comprised of many of the same members for a decade.

"We don’t do this a lot here. In fact, the executive committee is a bit like the Supreme Court; it doesn’t change a lot," he said. "I’m happy to say we are putting in place a group that can bring new voices and perspectives from around the world and be the flexible and dynamic team that can reflect the business we’re in."

All members of the executive committee are transitioning to the leadership council with the exception of vice chairman Lorraine Thelian, who Flaherty said elected to focus on client work instead.

He noted that the group’s members are serving two-year terms, so the council can be modified to reflect transformations in the agency’s business.

"The agency is changing and our whole industry is changing, and we want to make sure we have the right global representation," Flaherty said, adding that the group reflects a variety of focus areas as well as geographies.

The council consists of 10 men and 10 women. Ten members are in global roles, with four apiece from North America, and Europe and the remaining two from Asia-Pacific and Latin America. The appointments are effective immediately.

The leadership council is made up of global client director Serena De Morgan, senior counselor for global growth and development Peter Fleischer, MD of global practices Hilary McKean, chief human resources officer and general counsel Craig Mersky, chief client officer Jerry Olszewski, global development officer Esty Pujadas, chief communications officer Mindy Rubinstein, chief strategy and creativity officer Karen Stauss, CFO Bill Visone, and chief engagement officer Stephen Waddington.

The group also includes New York director Mike Doyle, Ketchum Digital president Debra Forman, Europe CEO David Gallagher, International CEO Jon Higgins, Europe CFO Mark Hume, London CEO Denise Kaufmann, North American chief development officer Michael O’Brien, North America CEO Barri Rafferty, Brandzeichen CEO Vicky Wagner, and Ketchum Sports & Entertainment president Ann Wool.

The agency is also planning to launch the Break Through Advisory Board, a group focused on developing disruptive ideas to spur innovation, in August.

The reorganization is taking place nearly four months after Omnicom reorganized its PR firms within its DAS division, placing former Porter Novelli CEO Karen van Bergen in charge of the newly created Omnicom Public Relations Group. The chief executives of the holding company’s PR firms began reporting to her at that time.

Flaherty said the impetus for Ketchum to reorganize its global leadership team came from discussions he had with other agency executives, not from Omnicom PR Group or DAS. He said the goal of the changes is not to improve margins or boost revenue – "we’re doing quite well with that," he said about the latter – but to flatten Ketchum’s organization and help it make decisions more quickly.

"It’s an exercise in being proactive, being optimistic, and building the agency of the future," he said. "It’s not about penny pinching; it’s about the opposite of that: getting the most out of our agency."

The firm achieved low-single-digit organic revenue growth in 2015, down from the high-single-digit growth of the year before, but it outpaced Omnicom’s PR firms as a whole, which registered an 1.4% organic revenue decrease for full-year 2015.

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