Deutsch Chairman and Former CEO Linda Sawyer to Depart Agency

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Deutsch Chairman and former CEO Linda Sawyer
Deutsch Chairman and former CEO Linda Sawyer Credit: Courtesy of Deutsch

Deutsch Chairman Linda Sawyer, who celebrated 27 years at the agency last week, will leave the Interpublic Group shop at the end of the year.

Ms. Sawyer became chairman at the beginning of 2015 when former chairman Donny Deutsch announced his plan to step down from the agency to pursue a TV show on the USA Network. At the time, Ms. Sawyer promoted former Los Angeles CEO Michael Sheldon to her previous role of North American CEO, a position she'd held for 10 years. Mr. Sheldon will add chairman to his title upon Ms. Sawyer's departure.

"We had a great 18 months and it really solidified things and I feel like we're in a solid, strong place on both coasts and it feels like the right time to take on a new challenge," said Ms. Sawyer.

While she did not disclose a lot of detail about her next endeavor, she said she's launching a "disruptive e-commerce venture next spring." Ms. Sawyer added that the diverse and complex experiences she's had in the advertising industry through the years, from business strategy to consumer trends and more, has prepared her for this new adventure.

Ms. Sawyer joined the agency in 1989 as a VP-account supervisor on Ikea. At the time, the shop only had 40 staffers, and now it has more than 900. She said one of the reasons she was attracted to Deutsch was because of the agency's focus on "business and business results," along with creative work.

In addition to Deutsch's people and culture, Ms. Sawyer said she's very proud of the "very progressive and brave" work the agency did for Ikea, which included subtly breaking social taboos by featuring gay and interracial couples in the ads.

Ms. Sawyer, who called Donny Deutsch a "powerful force" and mentor, said she's very happy about Deutsch's smooth succession planning. Interpublic Group Chairman and CEO Michael Roth, she added, "has been an unbelievable advocate to me and a big champion for diversity."

Topics around gender equality and diversity are popular today, she said, but Mr. Roth and Mr. Deutsch have always focused on "top-performers regardless of gender."

When Ms. Sawyer was named one of Ad Age's Power Players among Women in Advertising in 2012, Mr. Roth said, "When Donny was there, I used to kid him that there were more females there than males. There was such an open environment at Deutsch that was responsive to pure talent and not gender."

He added at the time: "[Ms. Sawyer's] very personable, she's great with clients, a good role model for the agency, has a great work ethic and she really cares about her people and the business. What else do you want from a leader?"

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