Verdict is in: Fleishman must focus on its future

Fleishman-Hillard was not on trial in LA, but there must be a sense of relief nonetheless with the criminal trial of Doug Dowie and John Stodder having concluded with guilty verdicts for both.

Fleishman-Hillard was not on trial in LA, but there must be a sense of relief nonetheless with the criminal trial of Doug Dowie and John Stodder having concluded with guilty verdicts for both.

No agency rival ever gloated at the firm's public predicament. The consensus was, "it could happen to anyone," as firm leaders know that there is no way to fully safeguard against the possibility of a rogue staffer. Speculation over any direct knowledge or involvement by Fleishman's leadership came to nothing.

Fleishman was eventually able to largely contain the issue within LA, so much so that other agency CEOs report little to no repercussions as a result, in terms of extra scrutiny or loss of overall industry credibility.

It's another story in LA. Government contracts are scrutinized not only by the client, but by the press, as seen with the recent Durazo news. In the insular world of LA PR, the chain of events has been hot gossip.

Fleishman, throughout, has continued to hire, win new business, and adapt to the rapidly changing industry dynamics. Now that this psychological hurdle has been cleared, it will be important to see what's next.

One issue ripe for speculation is the CEO succession plan. No one is saying John Graham is, or should, be going anywhere - even to a chairman's title - soon, but it is one of the few top firms with no clear indication of an heir apparent. There is a field of several obvious contenders among its senior ranks, including but not exclusive to Dave Senay, Paul Johnson, and Richard Kline - all regional presidents and senior partners - Jack Modzelewski, client relations president, and Bill Anderson, vice chairman.

Perhaps because of the need for resolution in the LA matter, this question of succession has lingered for too long. As Fleishman prepares to move on post-trial, it should seek to address it soon.

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