Initiative Worldwide CEO Alec Gerster to Retire

North America Chief Richard Beaven to Succeed Him

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) --- Alec Gerster will retire as the CEO of Initiative Worldwide in March and Richard Beaven, CEO of Initiative North America, will take his post, the Interpublic Group of Cos.' agency said today.
Alec Gerster
Alec Gerster

Mr. Gerster, who has been at the helm of Initiative for six years, came to the agency after a 30-year career at Grey Global Group, where he served as the CEO of media-buying unit MediaCom.

"When I came to Initiative six years ago, the challenge was to get in a stable and growing space, which I think we've done, so this is a good time to hand it off to Richard," Mr. Gerster said.

Impressive changes under Beaven
Mr. Beaven, 41, came to Initiative in 2006, after working as exec VP-managing director for Publicis Groupe's MediaVest USA. At MediaVest, he managed planning for the agency's Procter & Gamble account. Prior to that, he played a key role in the unbundling of Leo Burnett's U.K. media department into a separate company, Starcom.

Under Mr. Beaven's leadership, Initiative has seen an impressive turnaround. After a bleak few years, the agency has rebounded by winning coveted accounts from Hyundai Motor Americas and Cadbury Schweppes, among others. He has sought to bolster the agency's planning capabilities -- a move that has paid off as some big clients, like Kao Brands, have moved planning assignments to the agency. Mr. Beaven said he plans to announce his replacement within the week.

"We've started feeling like there is a lot of momentum in the company based on the hard work we've done," Mr. Beaven said.

It will be Mr. Beaven's challenge to inject the worldwide network with that same momentum it has enjoyed here.

"I am very excited to really have the privilege of leading such a great brand on a broader scale," he said. "We need to really make sure the company has a central sense of what is and what uniquely it can bring to clients."

Will continue industry work
Mr. Gerster, who will be 60 when he retires, said he had spoken with Interpublic officials about his decision over the last few months. However, his retirement will not be a wholesale move out of the ad industry. Mr. Gerster said his next step will likely be in the field of the digitization of TV, which he sees as one the most game-changing factors in the ad business.

The announcement of Mr. Beaven's appointment comes as Interpublic is looking into efficiencies at its media operations under a task force led by Universal McCann Worldwide CEO Nick Brien. The task force has fueled speculation that the two companies will be merged as one unit.

Mr. Beaven said he will play a major role in examining the networks and that Interpublic is "very committed to having two core brands."
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