WASHINGTON: Leslie Dach, the worldwide vice chairman of Edelman, is leaving the agency to take a position as EVP of corporate affairs and government relations with Wal-Mart.
Dach will report directly to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott.
Rob Rehg, Dach's current deputy, will be assuming his responsibilities as president of Edelman's 200-person DC office. Also pitching in will be Michael Deaver, the agency's other worldwide vice chairman, who will be chairman of the DC office and will take over leadership of Edelman's global public affairs and crisis practices. Deaver will also oversee Edelman's advertising agency, Blue. Dach will remain at Edelman for a few more weeks to assist with the leadership transition.
Rehg will report to Edelman's US CEO and president Pam Talbot, while Deaver will report to agency head Richard Edelman.
Dach, who has been with Edelman for 17 years, is a veteran of the political world. He held top communications position for John Kerry's presidential campaign and advised the Clinton White house on communications issues. Deaver said that he will pick up increasing "global work" and responsibilities.
Rehg said that his top priority as he takes over the office will be "to go out and look for a big Democrat" to replace Dach, who served as the Democratic counterbalance to the Republican Deaver. He declined to speculate on who that Democrat could be, but said that the hire would not necessarily assume Dach's old title of vice chairman, Deaver said.
Rehg said he found out Dach was leaving last week; but Deaver said that no one other than Rehg was considered for Dach's former post.
Dach's move to Wal-Mart is likely to strengthen the already close ties between the company and Edelman. "His senior role with the company is going to be very helpful [to Edelman]," Rehg said. "We feel good about that."
In a statement, Richard Edelman said Dach has "made an incredible contribution to Edelman, growing our DC operation from $1.5 million to $32 million today."
Dach's other former tasks have been divided among other Edelman executives. Neal Flieger, the agency's GM of public affairs, will take over responsibility for its research unit, StrategyOne; and Peter Segall, head of the DC health practice, will take over as US director of health public affairs.
Wal-Mart began working with Edelman last year, bringing in the agency to help bolster its much-battered corporate reputation. Hurricane Katrina followed soon after, and Wal-Mart scored a goodwill coup with its efforts to help rebuild the region and offer relief to refugees. From the beginning of its relationship with Wal-Mart, Dach has played a primary role in work with the retailer.
The agency has helped Wal-Mart build positive buzz about the company among bloggers; launch a group called "Working Families for Wal-Mart," nominally helmed by former UN ambassador Andrew Young; and active strategic support of other Wal-Mart initiatives like its ongoing pro-environmental campaign.