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Fleishman-Hillard Replaces CEO of 32 Years

John Graham Will Stay on as Chairman of PR Giant

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Fleishman-Hillard, PR counselor to corporate heavyweights such as Visa and AT&T, today announced a management shuffle that includes the naming of a new chief executive for only the third time in the firm's 60-year history.
John Graham, who has been president-CEO of Fleishman-Hillard for 32 years, will drop those titles and continue as chairman.
John Graham, who has been president-CEO of Fleishman-Hillard for 32 years, will drop those titles and continue as chairman.

Successor named
The Omnicom Group-owned agency said John Graham, who has been president-CEO for 32 years, will drop those titles and continue as chairman. Mr. Graham, 68, will be succeeded in those roles by David Senay, a 22-year veteran of the firm who will now oversee its operations. Paul Johnson will become vice chairman-worldwide growth and president-public affairs.

Mr. Graham's stepping out of day-to-day operations is a momentous, though expected, development in the PR industry. Fleishman is one of the business's undisputed giants, known for an insular culture that measures reigns not in years but in decades and that was carefully tended to by Mr. Graham.

40-year career
Throughout an iconic 40-year career in the industry, Mr. Graham developed a reputation as a hands-on manager and a deft client handler. A former amateur poet and writer of Hallmark greeting cards, he joined the firm in 1966, when he was recruited from a PR post at St. Louis YMCA by Bob Hillard, the co-founder of what was then an eight-person firm.

He ascended to the top job eight years later, kicking off a reign that saw Fleishman become a global power with more than 75 offices. The agency was bought by Omnicom in 1997.

Criminal convictions
Fleishman recently endured the most embarrassing chapter in its history, when employees at its Los Angeles office were accused of bilking city agencies. Two former executives, Doug Dowie and John Stodder, were eventually convicted, following a high-profile criminal trial. The firm was forced to take a variety of steps to strengthen its ethical practices, including the creation of a hotline employees and clients can use to report any untoward behavior.

Omnicom's PR offerings have been just above flat in recent quarters, lagging both the No. 1 ad-holding company's other segments and its industry peers. In the first quarter, Omnicom PR -- which also includes Ketchum and Porter-Novelli -- grew just 1.4%, compared to Interpublic's 6% and WPP's 14%. Omnicom and its rivals don't break out financial data for individual agencies.

A press release described business as "extremely strong."

The agency also named a nine-person chairman's office designed to "identify strategic priorities," according to the release. Those individuals have a combined 180 years experience with Fleishman, the release said.
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