Exclusive: R/GA's Barry Wacksman, Saneel Radia and Mike Rigby plan to start their own venture
A triumvirate of top R/GA executives—Vice Chairman and Global Chief Strategy Officer Barry Wacksman, Global Chief Innovation Officer Saneel Radia and New York VP Executive Creative Director Mike Rigby—are planning to start their own agency, Ad Age has learned.
That news is stunning enough in itself, but there's more: People close to the matter say the startup has been negotiating with rival WPP Group to back the new shop. It could not be learned whether Wacksman and his group also drew interest from IPG in the venture.
WPP declined to comment. IPG did not return a call for comment and R/GA declined to comment. Wacksman, Radia and Rigby also did not return separate requests for comment.
The most significant of the three departures is Wacksman, who has been with the agency since 1999 and is one of its most public faces. According to R/GA's website, Wacksman joined R/GA when it had fewer than 50 employees; today it has more than 2,000. Radia, who leads business transformation for the shop, joined in 2016 after founding brand incubator Finch15 following his departure from BBH. Rigby signed on in 2014 and was elevated in January of last year to global head of brand, senior VP and executive creative director.
Insiders say that Wacksman has been informally feeling out holding companies including Publicis, WPP and IPG, for some time to back a new venture focused on brand transformation work.
R/GA, known for its mantra "transformation at speed," has been suffering a bit of an identity crisis since its founder Robert Greenberg stepped down as CEO in 2018. The pandemic didn't help: In May the shop laid off 10 percent of its U.S. staff.
According to the Ad Age Datacenter, R/GA's worldwide revenue in 2019 was $415.1 million, up from $390.6 million in 2018. But economic uncertainty in the past year has put pressure on most agencies' bottom lines in 2020.
In its second quarter earnings call in July, IPG reported a net revenue decrease of 12.8 percent to $1.85 billion, compared to $2.13 billion in the same period last year, but an organic sales decline of 9.9 percent "due to impact of global economic contraction in the quarter."
Recently, there have been other notable exits at R/GA. Dave Edwards, who had been with R/GA for 14 years, left in March to become global head of growth at marketing and innovation company BeenThereDoneThat. Edwards—known by some in the industry as "Weather Edwards" for his Instagram meteorology reports—first joined the agency in 2005 and led new business growth for R/GA for the past 10 years.
Joseph Tomasulo, former R/GA executive VP and global financial officer, left the agency in June to become chief financial officer of North America for WPP's Wunderman Thompson. Jose Rivera, ex-director and talent partner of the U.S. left in August to become a senior human resources manager at Amazon. And Vin Farrell, former executive VP and global head of R/GA Studios, left in April to become chief content officer of North America for Wunderman Thompson.
Contributing: Judann Pollack