BCW Global CEO Donna Imperato to retire

Imperato, who has led the firm since the combination of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe, will step down once her successor is found.

Imperato also led C&W for 15 years.

NEW YORK: BCW Global CEO Donna Imperato is planning to retire this year once her successor is appointed.

Imperato, who is based in New York, will work with Mark Read, CEO of BCW parent WPP, to identify a new leader for BCW Group and to ensure a smooth transition. At that point, she will also step down from the executive committee of WPP.

Imperato said the decision to resign took a long time for her to make, but the timing is right. 

“I’ve always wanted to leave on a high note,” she said. “I am leaving the business in great hands and in exceptional shape. We had a fantastic 2022. The team is solid and excited about the future.”

Imperato said her first order of business after leaving BCW is taking time to “chill,” travel for pleasure and read.

“I am thinking about what I want to do next,” said Imperato. “Will I stay in the industry? Or maybe I'll do something completely different? I honestly don't know.” 

BCW Group is seeking a CEO who understands the firm’s strategy, goals and is the right cultural fit, said Imperato. She added that it is important for the next leader to take a leaf out of her book and “honor the individual” while ensuring a collaborative culture.

“We have an incredible culture at BCW, and protecting that culture is one of the most important things to me,” said Imperato. “I have people who have worked for me for 10 or more years, and it is because we work collaboratively together but people are individuals, and I respect the different styles and decisions that are made as long as we all learn from any mistakes.”  

As CEO of BCW Group, Imperato oversees BCW; AxiCom, WPP’s specialist technology PR agency; Direct Impact, a grassroots and advocacy agency; GCI Health, a global healthcare integrated communications agency; HZ, an integrated creative agency acquired in 2018; and Prime Policy Group, a public affairs and public policy consultancy. She is also CEO of the agency BCW.  

The firm was formed in February 2018, when WPP merged Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller in a deal that created the world’s third-largest PR firm by revenue.

Imperato said that the top highlight from her time at the firm’s helm was creating one of the top three agencies in the world by revenue. 

“We did it pretty smoothly and created exactly what I wanted to create,” she said. 

Before leading BCW, Imperato was CEO of Cohn & Wolfe for 15 years, leading the firm through five successive years of double-digit growth between 2014 and 2018. 

In December 2022, Imperato was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame. She has also been a PRWeek Power List honoree multiple times, most recently last year, and she was included in the inaugural 2016 class of PRWeek’s Women of Distinction.

BCW, WPP’s largest PR agency, posted $745 million in revenue in 2021, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2022.

“I don't worry about the future of BCW,” Imperato said. “I’ll be cheering from the sidelines forever.” 


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