Ogilvy Promotes John Seifert to Head North American Operations

Dismantles Co-CEO Structure; Bill Gray Moved to Vice Chairman

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Newly minted Ogilvy & Mather global CEO Miles Young broke up the long-standing dual-CEO regime in the agency's struggling North American operation, moving co-CEO Bill Gray to a senior account-management role and promoting longtime account baron John Seifert to run operations in the region.

Mr. Gray is being moved aside in favor of the husband of Shona Seifert, the onetime Ogilvy executive who was convicted in early 2005 of defrauding the federal government in work on its anti-drug account. Mr. Gray was called by prosecutors to testify in the case of Ms. Seifert and her colleague, Thomas Early, who both ended up serving prison terms.

John Seifert
John Seifert
Following this move, Mr. Seifert is chairman of Ogilvy North America; Mr. Gray is vice chairman.

Carla Hendra, the other co-CEO, remains CEO of Ogilvy North America and chairman of Ogilvy's New York office. The old structure, put in place under former Ogilvy Worldwide CEO Shelly Lazarus, didn't do much for Ogilvy's organic growth or its new-business performance, which has been moribund in recent years, coming up short in major pitches for Wal-Mart and Sprint.

As the agency welcomed Mr. Young, who took over effective this month for Ms. Lazarus, now the network's chairman, it reduced 5% of its overall North American staff, roughly 150 to 175 employees. Those cuts came a year after a prior round in which as many as 100 staffers were let go, largely in New York.

The management shakeup is the first step in what Mr. Young described as necessary to achieving a "new Ogilvy."

"North America is our most important region," Mr. Young said in a statement. "These changes provide the clarity of leadership which the new Ogilvy I envisage requires, and will allow three exceptional individuals to deploy their talents to their fullest potential. In John we have a leader who listens -- to our clients, our people, and the world around us. He is exceptionally well qualified for this role."

"I'm deeply grateful to Miles and Shelly for their partnership and trust in me to lead Ogilvy North America in these extraordinary times for our industry," said Mr. Seifert in a statement. "I intend to work my butt off to ensure my Ogilvy partners and I epitomize the vision, values and, most importantly, the performance standards of David Ogilvy, the 'world's most famous advertising man.'"

Mr. Seifert, a 30-year Ogilvy veteran, has worked throughout the agency's worldwide network in client leadership and general-management positions in Los Angeles, Chicago, Bangkok, Singapore and New York. Most recently, his title was chairman-global brand community, and he was responsible for a portfolio of 25 global clients totaling nearly $1 billion in revenue.

Mr. Gray's new role will have him focus "on a core portfolio of strategic accounts," Ogilvy said.

While Mr. Gray's testimony never directly implicated Ms. Seifert or Mr. Early, it was used by prosecutors to establish a financial motive for why the two would try to attempt to overbill the government. The government's lawyers attempted to get him to admit to being aware of a shortfall on the Office of National Drug Control and Prevention account and to pressuring the two defendants to fudge the numbers. Mr. Gray denied it, stating often that he didn't recall the circumstances surrounding budget issues.

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