Senior executives depart Hill+Knowlton amid restructuring

EVP Howard Opinsky, Chicago GM Claire Koeneman, and Washington, D.C. GM Ellen Moran are among senior staffers who have left the WPP firm, which will now operate under a single P&L across the U.S.

CEO Alexander Jutkowitz
CEO Alexander Jutkowitz

NEW YORK: Hill+Knowlton Strategies has said goodbye to several senior executives as the firm restructures under a single P&L in the U.S.

Among those who have departed the firm are key regional leaders such as Claire Koeneman, Howard Opinsky, and Ellen Moran.

Koeneman served as leader of H+K’s central region, as well as Chicago GM and head of financial comms; Opinsky led the East Coast region and was previously head of the firm's public affairs practice and GM of Washington, D.C.; Moran was EVP and GM of the firm's Washington D.C. office.

Other senior leaders who have left H+K include Christopher Winans, EVP of U.S. financial services communications; Penny Mitchell, EVP and U.S. healthcare practice lead; and SVP David Bloomgren.

H+K spokesperson Rebecca Ballard said the firm doesn’t comment on former staffers.

"We haven’t spoken about individuals’ moves in the past and we don’t plan to change that," she said via email. "In a period like this in any organization, it is reasonable to expect some individuals would move in a different direction with their careers, and we truly wish them well."

None of the individuals who have left the firm were available for comment.

Before joining H+K in 2011, Koeneman served at the Financial Relations Board for more than 16 years, latterly as president, according to her LinkedIn profile. Opinsky was formerly press secretary for John McCain’s presidential campaign run, an EVP at Weber Shandwick, an EVP for Powell Tate, and MD of corporate comms for JP Morgan Chase, according to his LinkedIn.

Before joining H+K, Moran was principal at The Dewey Square Group, a PR shop that caters to corporate non-profits; chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce; comms director for President Obama for a brief period; among other positions at various organizations.

Winans was previously chief of communications and marketing at Promontory Financial Group (an IBM consulting firm), SVP of external affairs at financial services company AXA Equitable, and VP of media relations at AIG, his LinkedIn states.

Mitchell served as SVP and director of new business at dna Communications, a healthcare division within Weber Shandwick; as well as SVP, senior partner, and director of business development and client services at Togorun, a FleishmanHillard health and wellness subsidiary. She was also previously co-chair of the global healthcare practice at FleishmanHillard.

The restructuring at H+K follows a leadership transition in May, when Alexander Jutkowitz, CEO of Group SJR and H+K’s chief global strategist, was named U.S. CEO of H+K, succeeding Beth Balsam, who departed the firm.

"We’re putting a more fluid and adaptable structure in place, one that frees us up to deploy our resources wherever our clients need us," Jutkowitz told PRWeek in a statement. "For H+K, that means getting rid of hierarchy built on regions, and instead freeing up our people to deploy their creativity, expertise, and passion wherever it’s most needed."

While Jutkowtiz was preparing to take over as U.S. CEO he sent an email to staff promising to "convene talent and resources" across the region. He later told PRWeek's weekly podcast The PR Week the agency would move to a flatter structure and suggested it would operate differently to other agencies.

As part of the restructuring into a single P&L, H+K has shifted reporting lines from a geographic basis to a client portfolio basis.

The most visible part of this reorganization is a flatter structure with just four job title categories: associate, principal, director, and managing director. MDs report to each other, and will serve as the firm’s leaders, carrying out strategy set by Jutkowitz and U.S. president Erin Gentry.

"In my experience, the most creative and insightful offerings are always the result of people feeling they can pursue the opportunity to learn from each other, to challenge themselves," Jutkowitz added in his statement. "Our clients want advice that is sharpened by the freedom to stay curious, to discover."

H+K also wants to open up its services and sectors divisions. Rather than having leaders for separate groups, the agency wants staffers to operate across multiple services and sectors based on their particular expertise and interests. Sector and service leaders will serve as subject matter experts for the agency and for clients.

In this year's PRWeek Agency Business Report, the firm claimed global organic year-over-year growth of about 2.6% globally in 2016, to about $390 million, with global CEO Jack Martin saying it was "one of the best years we've had for some time."

Separately, at the start of the year, sister WPP agency Ogilvy consolidated all U.S. operations into a single P&L, appointing Lou Aversano as CEO. Aversano was previously CEO of Ogilvy & Mather New York.

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