Ketchum's Rob Flaherty to retire after 32 years

Flaherty initially postponed his retirement to counsel the agency through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rob Flaherty is retiring from Ketchum after 32 years.
Rob Flaherty is retiring from Ketchum after 32 years.

NEW YORK: Ketchum chairman Rob Flaherty is retiring after 32 years at the agency.

Flaherty's last day of work is June 15, according to an internal announcement. He will then become chairman emeritus. 

Flaherty originally submitted his retirement announcement March 6, 2020, but when the country closed down less than a week later because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he knew it wasn't the right time. 

"We really needed all hands on deck," he said. "I was asked to stick around to counsel clients as they handle this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and to advise Ketchum leadership as we worked our way through this." 

Over a year later, Ketchum is recovering from a tough 2020 that saw global revenue drop 5% to $476 million with 75% of revenue coming from existing clients, according to PRWeek's 2021 Agency Business Report.

But the firm has hired 200 people in the last six months and has returned to a trajectory of growth, Flaherty said.

"Now just about everyone at Ketchum is fully vaccinated, and Mike Doyle is doing a great job completing his first year as CEO," he said. "The agency is going really well, so I can return to my plan." 

Flaherty's post-Ketchum plans are more of a "full retirement," but he will possibly do pro bono work for nonprofit organizations when he's not woodworking or learning how to crab. 

"I might do a little of that, but first I'd like to try to stop," he said. "I've been going nonstop professionally since I was 21, so I will be spending time with my family." 

Flaherty joined Ketchum from Burson-Marsteller (now BCW) in 1989 as associate director of the agency's New York office. Over his 32-year tenure, he was director of the New York City office, led the company's corporate practice and served as global president and CEO. 

Flaherty became Ketchum’s chairman in 2018, when Barri Rafferty succeeded him as CEO. Last June, Doyle replaced Rafferty as Ketchum’s president and CEO. Rafferty exited the firm to lead communications for Wells Fargo.

"[Flaherty] was a role model and mentor to so many of us who had the chance to work with him," said Nick Ragone, who ran Ketchum's corporate practice and DC office before becoming CMO at Ascension. "He has been the consummate client counselor, and nobody was better at new business then [Flaherty]. He helped elevate the importance of communications in corporate America and has been a thought leader for our industry."

Flaherty has been a PRWeek Power List honoree multiple times, most recently in 2017.

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