Grayling U.S. CEO Peter Harris to depart at end of August

Paul Taaffe, CEO of Grayling parent Huntsworth, will act as U.S. CEO; Harris plans to set up his own consultancy.

NEW YORK: Grayling U.S. CEO Peter Harris is stepping down at the end of the month.

Paul Taaffe, CEO of Grayling parent Huntsworth, will act as U.S. chief executive after Harris’ exit. Based in New York, Taaffe will "evaluate and assess the situation" in terms of finding a replacement, Harris said.

Harris will serve as chief executive until August 31, after which he will launch an independent consultancy. He will continue to work with Grayling to counsel key clients, Harris said. The consultancy will focus on reputation, crisis, and issues management for Fortune 500 companies, as well as emerging businesses.

Harris said it was his decision to step down.

"I want to get back to my entrepreneurial roots, work alongside clients, and do what I love doing which is work related to reputation and crisis and issues management," he said.

In an emailed statement, Taaffe thanked Harris for his work and said the firm is "pleased" it can continue to work with him.

"[Harris] has made a tremendous contribution during his tenure as CEO, managing the integration of a number of disparate businesses under the Grayling banner," Taaffe said.

Harris has served as U.S. CEO since January 2014. He joined the Huntsworth firm from MSLGroup, where he was an SVP in the firm’s corporate and technology practice and managed the global United Technologies account.

Prior to joining MSL in 2007, Harris was an SVP at Ketchum, GM of Access Communications' New York office, and partner at Peppercomm. He has worked with clients such as IBM, HP, Citibank, Visa, Genentech, and National Grid.

Grayling reported an operating profit of $0.5 million (£0.4 million) in the first half of this year, up from a slight operating loss in the first half of 2016, despite a revenue drop of 13% on a like-for-like basis in the period to $27.3 million (£21 million).

The U.S. arm of Grayling is set to return to profitability at the start of 2018, following a restructuring, it said in the earnings report. Its businesses in Continental Europe, the U.K., the Middle East, and Africa have all returned to profitability.

Grayling’s holding company, Huntsworth, reported a pre-tax profit of $12 million in the first half of the year. Revenue was up 9% on a like-for-like basis to $122.6 million.

The holding company also owns and operates Huntsworth Health, Red, and Citigate Dewe Rogerson.

Other top Huntsworth agency executives have announced plans to move on this summer. Howell James is stepping down as CEO of The Quiller Consultancy; Neil Matheson, the U.S.-based chief executive of Huntsworth Health, exited last month.

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