BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- SC Johnson has hired Richard Conti, a longtime former executive of rival Clorox Co. who most recently held a series of CEO posts with private-equity-backed companies, as its new chief operating officer for North America amid what people close to the company described as a substantial shakeup in the company's management ranks.
Mr. Conti spent nearly 23 years at Clorox, through 2004, finishing as a group VP overseeing about half the company's business. An SC Johnson spokesman confirmed the company had hired Mr. Conti but did not confirm what his role is.
Mr. Conti appears to be the highest-level outsider ever brought into SCJ, a family-held and generally tight-lipped company that had been known for the unusually lengthy tenure of its managers. While Racine, Wis.-based SCJ has drawn heavily from such rivals as Clorox and Procter & Gamble Co. over the years to fill its marketing ranks, those hires generally have been at the director level or below. But some close to the company said turnover in management there has depleted the internal pool of management talent, likely leading to Mr. Conti's hire.
Among departures recently has been Patrick O' Brien, former president-developed markets. The SC Johnson spokesman didn't return calls for comment on Mr. O' Brien's departure, and Mr. O' Brien couldn't be reached for comment via LinkedIn.
SCJ appears to have fared well the past year in many of its categories, including Ziploc kitchen storage and household cleaning products such as Scrubbing Bubbles, according to SymphonyIRI data from Deutsche Bank. But it's come under growing pressure from P&G in two key businesses -- laundry additives (Shout) and air fresheners (Glade). Glade hasn't been able to stem years of share losses to a series of product launches by P&G's Febreze. And SCJ has lost about two points of market share in laundry additives following launch of Tide Stain Release products last year.
SCJ's management changes follow a shakeup earlier this year at its key agency, DraftFCB, which handles most of the company's brands in the U.S. and globally, except Shout, handled by DraftFCB's Interpublic sibling Mullen, Boston.
DraftFCB's North American President Mark Modesto left his post abruptly in August. He was one of what SCJ veterans refer to as "the Marks," the other being Mark Pacchini. The Marks were key players in SCJ's lengthy relationship with DraftFCB and Foote Cone Belding prior to its consolidation with Draft. Mr. Pacchini, who had run the SCJ account overseas, took over North American duties on the account upon Mr. Modesto's departure. He also was recently named president of DraftFCB's Asia-Pacific operations.
After leaving Clorox in 2004, Mr. Conti joined Nui Air, a company that provided contract flight services to tour operators in Hawaii, as CEO up to November 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. He then joined a couple of portfolio companies of private-equity firm GTCR Golder Rauner as CEO -- acquisition platform company Aspire Brands for a year and then Wilton Brands, a marketer of branded crafting and scrap-booking products, through January.
Wilton Brands' largest creditors filed an involuntary Chapter 11 petition against the company last year, which was withdrawn after an October 2009 recapitalization agreement with two of the largest creditors, TowerBank Capital and Deustche Bank.
As a Clorox veteran, Mr. Conti's longest-standing agency relationship is with Omnicom's DDB Worldwide, whose San Francisco office handles most creative and marketing-services work for Clorox.