Karen van Bergen moves to Omnicom University dean role

John Doolittle will temporarily assume her responsibilities as Omnicom Public Relations Group CEO as the holding company looks for a replacement.

NEW YORK: Omnicom Group has named Omnicom Public Relations Group CEO Karen van Bergen as dean of Omnicom University. 

The holding company has named John Doolittle, president of DAS Group of Companies, to temporarily replace her as it searches for a replacement. 

Van Bergen is set to step into the role on January 1, 2020, reporting to Omnicom chairman and CEO John Wren.

"Anyone at Omnicom who has been to Omnicom University says it has been a life-changing experience," said van Bergen. "I have always been all about developing, attracting and retaining talent, and this is instrumental in that role. So I am beyond excited to be able to have a direct impact."

Omnicom is seeking an external candidate to fill the Omnicom PR Group CEO role as soon as possible, she added. 

"We’ve achieved a lot in OPRG, and we want to continue that momentum," said van Bergen. "We have so many great things in the pipeline that we can’t wait too long, but it has to be the right person."

Van Bergen will also lead Omnicom’s Common Ground initiative, which supports the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. With a specific focus on SDG#4 Education, she will run the company's existing partnerships with Girl Effect and Theirworld.

Van Bergen will serve as the university’s third dean. In 2012, Janet Riccio, who was also head of the Common Ground initiative, took over from Tom Watson, Omnicom University’s founder. Riccio died in August after a yearlong battle with ALS.

"[Riccio] was a very good friend of mine," said van Bergen. "I have big shoes to fill because she was an amazing dean." 

Established in 1995, Omnicom University is the holding company's management development program with more than 5,000 global alumni. It is led by professors from Harvard Business School, IESE Business School in Spain and China Europe International Business School.

Van Bergen has led Omnicom Public Relations Group since it was established in 2016. The holding company placed agencies including FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Marina Maher Communications and Porter Novelli under the umbrella group. 

Van Bergen joined Omnicom in 2007 and has worked at numerous PR firms within the holding company. She joined Porter in December 2012 from Fleishman, where she was senior partner, SVP and global lead for OneVoice, the integrated Omnicom offering servicing Royal Philips Electronics. Before she became Omnicom Public Relations Group CEO, she was Porter Novelli’s CEO.  

Omnicom Group’s PR firms reported an organic revenue decrease of 3.8% in Q3 to $337.2 million

This story was updated on December 11 with additional information and quotes from van Bergen. 

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