Foote Cone woos Grey New York's Blamer

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Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide is making a serious play for Grey Worldwide's New York president, Steven Blamer.

The Interpublic Group of Companies agency has recently overhauled a number of its top management spots, bringing in new creative and business chiefs in several of its main offices and now wants Mr. Blamer to take over in New York.

Several agency and industry executives claim talks are at an advanced stage, although a precise job title has not yet been worked out. Mr. Blamer may also be asked to head FCB's North American operations. An FCB spokesman would not comment. Mr. Blamer is on vacation and could not be reached for comment, according to a Grey spokeswoman.

Mr. Blamer, who moved to Grey, New York, as president in 2000, is highly rated by rival executives and clients for his new-business prowess and his management skills.

In 2002, his agency reeled in new clients Frontier Airlines, Pinnacle Foods and additional business from current clients J.M. Smucker Co., Masterfoods and Procter & Gamble Co.

"Steve's reawakened the agency and has given people the recognition and responsibility they've long desired," said executive search consultant Sharon Spielman, managing director, Jerry Fields Associates, New York, who has recruited executives to Grey.

Also significant is Mr. Blamer's past experience at FCB. Beginning in Chicago in 1979, he worked as an account executive, handling Sunkist Orange soda and other brands. He left the agency but returned in 1984 in Los Angeles, then moved over to the marketer side, first at beverage maker Capri Sun, then as head of his own company, Sundale Beverages. Mr. Blamer rejoined the ad business in 1989, becoming new-business director of Grey, Los Angeles. He moved to London in 1998 to lead the agency in the U.K.

FCB CEO Brendan Ryan has been looking to beef up management across the board.

In July, Gene Bartley, chief operating officer, FCB, temporarily took the reins as chairman-CEO of the New York office from Jeff Tarakajian, who remains president but now runs the agency's Diet Coke account. The same month, Chris Becker was named sole chief creative officer in New York. Rich Russo, who shared the role with Mr. Becker, left.

West Coast

On the West Coast, Dominic Whittles took over as San Francisco president from Ian Beavis who left shortly after the agency lost the California Lottery account due to a technicality. Michael Prieve also joined as executive creative director in San Francisco. FCB is still on a search to replace Mike Harris who briefly headed the Irvine, California office after Jim Harrington stepped down. For family reasons Mr. Harris returned to his previous post as Boston president of FCB unit Marketing Drive. The search for the next Irvine office chief continues.

FCB's New York office, which in 2002 generated 38% of FCB's U.S. billings, according to Ad Age sibling Crain's New York Business, lost more revenue on a percentage basis (29.5%) in 2002 than any other of the 25 agencies on the list. FCB disputes the accuracy of the numbers, which are based on Ad Age estimates.

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