NEW YORK: Hill+Knowlton Strategies global chairman and CEO Jack Martin is exiting the firm, effective July 1.
AnnaMaria DeSalva will replace Martin as global chairman and CEO, Martin wrote in an email to Hill+Knowlton Strategies employees Wednesday morning. DeSalva will report to WPP CEO Mark Read. Global presidents Lars Erik Grønntun and Richard Millar will report to DeSalva.
Martin made the decision to step down back in February, but did not offer a reason, he explained in the email.
Martin’s email to employees made no mention of his post-H+K plans. However, on Wednesday afternoon in Jack's Perspective, a semi-regular newsletter he sends to colleagues, clients and the public, he hinted that after taking time off to focus on his family's ranching business, he may start another firm.
"Building Public Strategies from scratch was one of the joys of my life because it allowed me to fully explore my entrepreneurial side," he wrote. "My interest in politics and public policy is now stronger than ever, perhaps given the times in which we live. But true to my entrepreneurial roots, there will no doubt be more to my journey. While it is difficult to predict exactly what that will look like, this much I know: it’s going to be interesting."
An H+K staffer familiar with the move said he doubts Martin will leave the comms business.
"After a decade at the helm, he decided now was the right time for him to step down," said the source. "I don’t know what’s next for him, but I can’t imagine he will take up pottery."
DeSalva will start at the end of June and will have the U.S. "as a key focus," Martin wrote in his email.
"DeSalva brings deep agency and client-side experience and breadth of service expertise advising CEOs, navigating crises, building corporate reputation and competitive advantage," he wrote. "She has been in what we term ‘the Fifth Seat.’"
In her first statement addressing the firm’s employees, DeSalva didn’t offer a specific agenda or plans. Instead, she offered a series of bullet points in which she reassured staff that she would hold "respect and regard for all that has come before," and that she understands that "sustained performance flows from a sense of well-being."
Martin, who was named to PRWeek’s Power List 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, got his start in Texas politics, helping Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) orchestrate a shift in that state’s politics in the early 1980s.
He went on to found the public affairs firm Public Strategies Inc. in Austin in 1988. WPP acquired Public Strategies in 2006 and Martin became global chair of H+K in 2010 when Public Strategies was merged with then-called Hill & Knowlton.
DeSalva currently serves as a senior adviser to the CEO of DowDuPont, Edward Breen. Before that, she was global chief communications officer for DuPont from 2014 to 2018.
Before DuPoint, DeSalva was VP of corporate affairs at Pfizer, where she was tasked with helping with that firm’s acquisition of Wyeth. According to her LinkedIn page, prior to Pfizer, she worked at the Food and Drug Administration, as a risk communications adviser.
DeSalva went to the FDA after three years in her first term at H+K as the firm’s worldwide director of healthcare from 2006 to 2009.
In 2018, H+K’s revenue grew by 3% to $400 million globally compared to $390 million in 2017.
Editor's note: This story was updated with more information on DeSalva and Martin's backgrounds on May 15.