Deborah Elam becomes DJE Holdings’ first Black board member

Richard Edelman said in June that a Black board member would be added by September.

Deborah Elam has joined DJE Holdings' board of directors.
Deborah Elam has joined DJE Holdings' board of directors.

CHICAGO: Deborah Elam has joined Daniel J. Edelman Holdings as its first Black board member.

CEO Richard Edelman made the announcement via an internal message sent to employees Tuesday morning, adding that Mainardo de Nardis, the former CEO of OMD Worldwide, Aegis Media and MEC, is also joining the board.  

The move, Edelman said, is the fulfillment of a commitment he made in mid-June, that the company would have a Black board member by September. 

“[Elam] has joined the board and I am excited,” he said about the decision. Elam did not immediately comment on her appointment.

Elam is president and CEO of business consulting firm Corporate Playbook and is an authority on diversity and inclusion, according to Edelman. Before launching her firm, she worked at General Electric as global chief diversity officer and president of the GE Foundation. 

In his message, Edelman wrote that the board “fulfills a critical role furthering our strategy, unlocking new growth opportunities, attracting diverse leadership talent and expanding our capabilities and business practices.”

In a Tuesday blog post, Edelman said the board includes Elam, Nardis and four other outside directors: Steven Felsher, former CFO of Grey Advertising; George Hornig, former COO of Deutsche Bank U.S.; Helle Thorning Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark; and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, former defense minister of Germany.

An Edelman spokesman declined to discuss if or how Elam or the other outside board members will be compensated.

Three Edelman executives also sit on the board: global president and COO Matthew Harrington; global CFO Vic Malanga, and Edelman himself. Finally, Edelman’s brother John, his sister Renee, and his daughters Margot, Tory and Amanda are also board members.

The board meets quarterly and operates similarly to other corporate boards, he said, to discuss the company’s competitive environment, leadership compensation and performance, talent retention and recruitment, diversity, equity and inclusion, financial performance and M&A or investment priorities.

Daniel J. Edelman Holdings is the parent company for Edelman, Zeno Group, United Entertainment Group, Edelman Intelligence, Microsoft-designated agency Assembly, and five other businesses, according to the DJE Holdings website.

In early August, Edelman released the full racial and ethnic breakdown of its U.S. staff for the first time, reporting that 26.6% of its workforce is non-white. Sister agency Zeno Group did the same the week prior. 

Revenue for Edelman in 2019 was flat at $892 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2020.

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